Saturday, October 31, 2009


I broke my frying pan! A cast iron frying pan. I can't decide if that makes me a good cook or a bad one. I guess I'm at least avid enough to wear out iron.

It was a #8 Griswald from god knows when. I'd had it 25 years or so. Since I moved out on my own. And it was my main pan. Has a nice lid with the basting nubs and everything. I was thawing out a bit of frozen burger in it and poured in water to steam it a bit...and it cracked. I've done that a hundreds of times in the past 25 years but apparently this was one time too many. I have no idea how old it was, but it looks like there may have been some metal fatigue.

I'm pretty bummed.

Anyway, one soldiers on. I've got tons of pans including the dutch oven I got with a gift certificate to Cabela's last year. Between that and the griddle and the tiny 6 inch frying pan, I have enough cast iron to get by, but it's been disconcerting these last few days without that pan. It always sat on the main burner and was the main thing I'd cook with. Today I had to fry up italian sausage in the dutch oven. This was probably very good for the dutch oven which is still new enough to need some seasoning.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The "I Stepped In A Dog Turd This Morning" Blog

So I was reading some blog somewhere, probably about being frugal or simple living or something. And the author stated that he/she didn't want his/her blog to be one of those "I Stepped In A Dog Turd This Morning" blogs. This has made me self conscious lately about covering more simplicity and frugality things, like my No Impact Week adventures (or lack there of...pretty dull really).

And then, I stepped in a dog turd this morning. Seriously.
I'm dog sitting for a friend who lives up the street. There is a kennel so the dog is in that during the day, but in the trailer with me at night. This morning I was taking the pooch home when...I stepped in a dog turd. I thought "even this is more interesting than what I've been writing." Thus I am sharing.

I have another odd story from today! This one is way better than any turd.
I'm driving south on highway 95 to go get groceries and help a bit with the station move for Radio Free Moscow. I get to the spot south of Tensed where, a few weeks back, a steer or bull was in the middle of the highway and I had to stop for it. I'm always looking around when I drive and I make especially sure to see if the cattle at this spot are inside or outside the fence. I was listening to David Sedaris while I drove...I can't remember which story and in a second you'll know why. I look over at the cattle...all nice black beef cattle types and have to do a double take.
One of them is eating casually near the creek with a GIANT RED BLOB sticking out of its butt!
I did an actual double take like a bad actor in a crap 1980s comedy flick. I took a good look. The blob was about the size of one of those red rubber balls they used in gym class back in the day for dodgeball (god knows I've seen enough of those flying at my head to have a good idea how big they are...I was not an athletic child). For younger readers, that's like soccer ball size. The cow (might have been male but let's use the feminine form as the generic here) had its tail going straight out and even maybe up a bit due to the size of this thing. The blob had black schmutz on the back side of it like it had either been touching the dirt or had intestinal contents stuck to it.

Do you think that was a prolapsed something?

I thought for a second that maybe it was giving birth but I don't think it's that season and having seen a few cows give birth, I haven't seen them just keep grazing when that large a chunk of the calf was hanging out the back end. The cow didn't act bawling, no twisting about, no big eyes as far as I could see while doing 60 miles per hour.

It occurred to me to stop and let the residents of the adjacent house know that there was a cow with a big red thing coming out of its butt, but how do you knock on a door and say " don't know me and I don't know cattle, but ... "
So I let it go and kept driving.

By then I had totally lost the thread of Mr. Sedaris' story and was engrossed in a long "what the hell was that?" inner monologue.

OK, enough of the interesting stories. Here's the no impact week summary:
Thursday was energy day. I did OK. Took the recommended inventory of my living space and all the things that run on electric or batteries. I have many things, though fewer than many americans. Of those that I can give up, I think I'll start with one of the two clocks by my bed. I'll keep the one I run on rechargeable batteries. The other is not adding any information and given the unreliable electricity around here, I end up backing it up with the battery powered one anyway. I've been shutting other things off at the power strip, fuse box, or wall outlet for a while now. That can save 15% of the energy for some things. The computer is a laptop and does not stay plugged in. The phone is corded (remember how they used to be hooked to the base with one of those curly things and the base was hooked to the wall with another wire? I have that) so I have no chargy thing running all the time, but, ironically I thought, the handset requires batteries to run the caller ID! Foiled again. I'll use rechargeables once the originals run out of juice. So far they've lasted most of a year.

There are 2 DVD players which is probably excessive. I can at least unhook one even if I can't part with it yet.
The TV. This and the DVD players are on a power strip which usually gets turned off at night.

The main lamp in the living room is on a timer and has a CFL bulb. Almost all the bulbs in the trailer are CFLs. I think one desk lamp that I don't use right now still has a regular bulb in it as do the ceiling fan fixtures because the CFLs won't fit in the shades. I never run those lights). I also left the apartment fully stocked with CFLs. The city of Plummer gives us about a dozen a year and with my smallish home, I have a surplus.

One thing I'm toying with as far as saving power is shutting the hot water heater off sometimes. I've done it when I was going to be out of town for more than a night or two and it did save power/money then. When I was gone for two weeks, it saved a TON of power/money. So much so that the meter reader came to my door and asked me what I was doing that my usage had gone down so much. This is something to think about as long as I know the thing has no chance of freezing. If it freezes and bursts, much more energy will be wasted on cleanup than was ever used by the heater.

And, limiting use of the car also limits fuel use.

One thing I can't change so will need to mitigate, is the electric forced air furnace. Notoriously inefficient, it is so much better than the oil burner in the living room that I'm sticking with it. I've got about 6 windows that need the storms put on, and some foam to put over the back door. With that and some shrink wrap on a window or two (those without storms), things will get better. To save more power/money, I've been turning the thermostat down about 1 degree per day for the week. It had crept up to 65 or so. I have acclimated myself in the past to keeping it at 55. Much below that and the refrigerator doesn't run right and I risk frozen pipes in outside walls and under the trailer (yes, there is heat tape). This brings us to heat tape. I'm leaving it on. Yes it takes power and money to run. It's important for me to remember that this is not only an old trailer, it's someone else's old trailer. No taking stupid risks just for the sake of "I wonder if the pipes will freeze at 15 degrees? 14 degrees?...the only way to know would be when pipes froze. And then being very old plastic pipes, they would break.

Enough on Power.

Friday was water day. We were to go through and assess our water habits. The manual for the week claims that the average american uses over 1100 GALLONS of water per day. I can't even fathom that! I use about 25 gallons per load of laundry, 5-10 per shower, and 3 or 4 per flush, 5 per dishwashing event (hand wash). a few more rinsing dishes and watering houseplants (actually, I water those with left over sprout water but's water). I won't spec this all out since probably no one wants to know how many times per day I flush, but I get a rough weekly total of: 300gallons.
To me, that seems excessive, and yet, it's only like 42.5 gallons per day. Am I missing some big input?
Do I waste 1060gallons while brushing my teeth?
I don't get it.

Some of the suggestions for saving water, I do like. If I hope to live offgrid someday with water I collect off the roof for household use, then I need to get the water use down as low as one can while remaining healthy and hygienic. The usual ones of installing a low flow shower head, putting something in the toilet tank, and etc. I've got one in, and will be moving the superlow flow one from the other bathroom into the main bathroom. I will have to explore the options for taking up space in the toilet tank. The toilet in the main bathroom is original to the trailer...well over 30 years old. I'm not sure it can tolerate much fiddling about. The toilet in the other bathroom is newish and low flow. Unfortunately, it links up to about a 50foot flat run in the pipe! A gallon and a half is not enough water to push "big jobs" through the system. People are discouraged from doing number 2s in that bathroom. And I do go use it about once a week just to keep things going through the pipes. Another option they give is getting a shower timer. I actually found one at a thrift store for 50cents a few weeks ago and it does help. No more meditating until the water runs cold (40 gallons in the hot water heater!!). I notice when the timer has run out (5 minutes or so) and even feel some accomplishment when I'm done before the timer is.
This saves both water an energy.

More advanced suggestions include not bathing everyday. I'm leary of that even though I know that most days, I'm not that stanky. I could get by on a sponge bath. It's more the enjoyment of a shower than the need for it many days. Sometimes I skip a day on the weekend.

Interestingly, Friday was also water potato day for the Tribe. That was fun. And it RAINED! All day. Poured at night. As if to mock me for not having enough organization to catch roof water. This mocked me even more Saturday morning as I trudged home with a poopy shoe and wondered if I dared use fresh water to wash poop off my shoe. I decided that I could not do that today. If I'd had a bucket of roof water (which would have a certain amount of bird poo in it anyway so not drinkable), I could have used that. As it is, the one shoe is outside waiting for the stuff to dry and fall off like it will eventually. I just could not use drinking water for that. Not after reading about how many people on the planet have no drinking water.

Given that, I feel bad flushing the toilet with drinking water. I'm thinking of trying saved bathwater flush system again. It's not perfect, but if it could cut down on my water use, that would be interesting. I already put the plug in the tub to let the water cool before draining. That way the heat goes into the house not the ground. You can keep the bathroom warm for about half a day with just the bathwater heat in this season.

And that brings us to Saturday. The day we were to give back. To volunteer or do something with the time we didn't spend shopping.
I went and volunteered at the radio station for a couple of hours. The station is moving from the second floor to the first floor. It's not a bad space at all! The entrance from the alley is a bit grim, but gives one a feeling of "cache". I unloaded CDs onto shelves for an hour or so, carried a few loads of things, and broke down boxes and took them to the recycling center. Then, people ordered pizza for lunch...not only did it not fit in with No Impact Week, it does not go with my "low dairy" requirement. And cheesefree pizza is generally crap so not worth the bother.

Anyway, by lunch time, people were winding down and the focus was getting fuzzy on the organization. Not a situation where I do well. So I picked up the recycling in my car and never looked back (so much so that I forgot to go to the library! Dang. Oh well. There is one in Plummer even if it doesn't have movies).

I had tried to shop at the farmer's market this morning in the spirit of local and organic but there were too many people and too much confusion and I got pissed. So back to the Co-op where I know the layout and can just get what I want without developing a personal relationship with a farmer. I'm not against that, but I missed the wave this year. This is the first weekend I made it to the market and is the last or the next to last weekend of the market so the farmers and regular customers were busy saying their farewells and striking end-of-season bargains. There were some bargains too, but I just wasn't up to chatting about my purchases. And I can't store 100#s of potatoes or apples. I can't can this weekend with a dog in the house who has fluffy flying fur so the whole thing started pissing me off and I left. Next year I'll start going earlier or try to find a closer market...better yet! I'll expand the garden. Hard to get more local than my own back yard. Then it's available to can when I'm alone, or I can tell people I can't dogsit because there are 100#s of tomatoes that need canning/dehydrating and eating.
As a treat...not a frugal one but no impact one...I splurged on the local heirloom tomatoes. These were something evil like $4.99 a pound but they are SO GOOD and they are all different shapes and a lovely shade of pinkish red. Wonderful flavor. I had them with local potatoes, onions, and kale, saute'd and steamed in a hash type affair with lemon juice, garlic, sea salt, hungarian paprika, and some fresh ground black pepper. Really good.

The whole day I was hankering for a "treat" say a candy bar. But I've done so well this week eating homemade that I didn't want to screw it up. THEN...I walked out of the radio station, and headed down the street to my car and absentmindedly picked up a cookie off a plate of free cookies outside a new store. I had eaten it before I even thought about it being pre-fab or non-organic, non-local, etc etc. The worst part is it was raisin and I don't even like that.

When I got home I put in the sourdough I'd had raising before I left and in 30 minutes had wonderful fresh bread with organic wheat, organic honey, and homebrewed sourdough. I'm pretty sure it was better than a candy bar. Of course I lost control and ate half the loaf (there are two loaves) but what the hell. It's delicious, organic, and I wanted some freaking CARBS to go with all that kale.

This cooking has gotten me back in the mood to cook so I'll be fixing a pan of oatmeal apple breakfast bars today or tomorrow so I have easy breakfasts and snacks next week that are tastier and healthier than the crap I would buy at the store. (the recipe for these is in a past blog post)

That is all for now. I think all three days are updated.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

FOOD day of No Impact Week.

(this is for the 21st ... same wifi story)

Well, today was food day.
I did pretty well. Ate homecooked or at least home prepared food even though I was at an all day out of town meeting. No one flinched when I got peanut butter (not local but fresh ground from actual peanuts) and jelly (homemade from plums I picked myself) sandwiches on sourdough bread (homemade) out of my fancy briefcase.

For beverages I had planned on getting up early and making a thermos of tea or at least a thermos of hot water so I could have tea. BUT that didn't work out. I got up late so I just filled a steel bottle with water. Oh well.

For dessert, a regionally produced organic apple.

Snacks were almonds and craisins. Not local, but organic.

Supper was ever more beans and rice. But instead of rice I used quinoa. Pretty good. I added a bunch of kale because I have bunches of kale. I'm tired of kale. Oh well. I can suck it up for a few more days then it's back to twinkies and pop.
OK, not really.

I am getting more aware of how much of my food is not local or even regional. Especially the spices. Must get an herb garden going so I'll have more spices fresh and at the ready. I have oregano that is supposed to be sprouting in the window, but so far no go.

I'm also thinking of trying to sprout the quinoa I got from the bulk bins at the co-op. I think it could grow in this climate so if it sprouts, I will try it next summer in the garden. It's good protein and tasty.

Anyway, this week's blog must be DULL DULL DULL for my reader. Sorry. Soon we'll be back to whore houses and river trips. Or at least a bit more variety.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Transportation Tuesday

(this is for October 20th...just got to wifi to post it)

Well, today I was supposed to cut down on my transportation footprint. I walked to work. That is no cut. I always walk to work now.

At work I needed to do a field tour with someone and we took his giant work rig (that's country folk talk for "vehicle"). I thought for a moment about taking my subaru which would get more miles per gallon. BUT...we were going into the mountains on logging roads. This is not somewhere to take a subaru. So, big 4-wheel drive truck it was. Also, I have no idea where I am in the mountains so me driving is hopeless. At one point he turned around and came back down the road we'd just been on and I was STILL completely lost. I even asked "now whose place is this" and OBVIOUSLY it was the same place we'd just passed about 20 minutes before. There was even a moosehide nailed to a shed. I was lost until I saw that the second time. This does not bode well for my move to the boonies. I could die wandering back from the creek a quarter mile away.

ANYWAY, I was happy with the choice to not drive my rig when the driver of the aforementioned giant truck looked at a mud hole with deep ruts and said, "we might get high centered" then went through it. He also noted that he has a winch so we'd be ok. The subaru does not have a winch and I'm not getting one. I do not need to be driving anywhere where a winch would be essential. Maybe at work and hence the invention of the "work rig."

So, along with the examining transportation today, I was to keep a list of food I ate and consider where it came from.
Here is a partial list:
Rice-n-beans...rice from far away, beans from far away, local onion, tomatoes from my garden, local peppers, salt from god knows where, pepper and spices from far away.
Bread with organic but not local wheat and sourdough from my counter.
Buffalo soup with conventional corn and greenbeans, onion from my garden, peppers from the freezer...I think they are conventional.
Oatmeal...not local, with sugar, oat bran and wheat bran. Mostly organic but not local.
And tea...not local.
Tofu fudge-cicle with organic but non-local tofu, conventional sugar, fake vanilla (a gift), and a bit of organic but non-local canola oil.
Not a bad day. I meant to eat kale again (I bought a ton because it was cheap) but I'm SICK OF IT. Will try again tomorrow.

So, for tomorrow, I intend to figure out my food carbon footprint if I can (I've got a meeting in Sandpoint and won't be near wifi or an interneted computer). We're supposed to do that. And try to eat all local/organic/regional/vegan whatever we can. We are to set our own food goal. I think mine will be to continue the all homemade from stuff I have on hand. Throwing out and buying new food rather than using up what I have is more wasteful than helpful. I will be more conscious of eating local and organic and unpackaged now that I've paid attention to this stuff for several days. Just eating homemade tomorrow will be something of an effort because I'll be on the road for at least one meal, possibly 2 or three. That means getting up 10 minutes earlier than planned to make sure I can pack a lunch.
Fortunately, I preplanned and cooked last weekend so I have bread, soup, beans and rice and other things that I can just pack and go. Also have apples (I think they are organic but possibly not local...must check), nuts and dried fruit. I should be fine. And once again people will stare.

I was at a meeting at the casino a few years ago where they had advertised "lunch is on your own." Out of over 100 people there, 2 of us brought a lunch. EVERYONE ELSE went to the casino buffet or one of the other restaurants in the casino. I was stunned. I thought there would be more freaks, more frugal types, more poor people. But nope. Everyone went off to spend between 10$ and 20$ for food that would have given me diarrhea (I still had my gallbladder and rich food was pretty risky).

I guess the goal for today's No Impact Challenge was to get me to be aware of my food. Definitely worked.

The ongoing awareness of garbage is also good.
Th transportation one was pretty good. I even considered trying to carpool to the meeting tomorrow, but in the end did not. The person I could "pool" with is someone in another town, on the way, with whom I've had a challenging work relationship and there is danger of things at the meeting blowing up on us. I really thought about calling to see about sharing a ride but realizing that if things go poorly, this person likes to stomp out of meetings early. If I'm driving that will mean they will have spent perhaps HOURS seething and getting defensive and/or pouting before the trip. If they drive, I could be making someone else come get me or hitch hiking or something. While it would be possible that things could go well, the odds are slim and I'm not quite there yet to taking that risk. If it goes OK, I'll propose to them that we share a ride next time.

Maybe I'll look into offsetting my work driving with some carbon chits.

No Trash Day of No Impact Week

(this is for October 19th...just got to a wifi thingy to post it)

Well, not so much success today. I wasn't supposed to make trash. I wasted about 5 sheets of paper at work and 1 foil teabag at home. I put the paper at work into the shredder. I can't recycle it because it had to be shredded. And I was a bit peeved about that teabag. I thought it was paper or I wouldn't have used it.

Then I realized that is a BIT of a tempest in a teacup if you will. I had already bought the tea bag so no point in letting it age for years with the tea in it. More loose tea from here on out.

And of course the private lady trash ... discussion of which and reduction strategies thereof I will keep to myself.

Tomorrow is transportation day and I'll have trouble cutting back! I already walk around town. I don't know how to have a lower impact than walking around town on resoled shoes. I suppose that technically does cause wear and tear on the pavement so perhaps I could just lie on the floor trying not to breathe too much (C02 you know...). Then again, perhaps I can just be happy that I can live 3 blocks from work again and no longer spend 2.5 hours a day in the car just to get to and from work.
I do have one trip I need to do to a field site at work. This will be with another person in a truck. My subaru gets better gas milage but it won't make it to the site. I am looking for ways to combine field site trips at work which will help some. We're checking several sites at once by having the guy who knows where they are drive. Hopefully that is close enough.

NOW: I did just read in the no impact week instruction manual (which I didn't print out...just reading on my computer), that the average American spends 1000 hours per year in the car. That is pretty impressive to me. Working a 40 hour a week job is a total of about 2080 hours per year. People are spending 50% of that much time in the car! That's 20 hours per week. I'm not sure I've done that...ever. When I drive to Iowa it's over 20 hours and I do it in a week then sometimes have spent that long in a car while there. But even when commuting 12.5 hours per week and driving another 4 hours every second weekend, I didn't make it up to 20 hours per week because once I was home, I parked the car. Now I spend about 5 hours per week in the car. 2 hours every other week going to/from the radio show, and then some driving for work. There are seasons and years when it's more, but 20 hours!!!! That's a lot. No wonder Americans are fat. We must also have hemrhoids. Sit in the car for 20 hours. Sit at the office for 40 hours. Sit in front of the TV for god knows how long. Then lie down and rest up from all that sitting (she spouts as sitting on the couch typing in front of the tv playing a dvd...just an All American Girl...with an all american giant butt).

On the other hand, I ate all homemade food today and it was good. Left over pancake with peanut butter for breakfast. Rice and beans with salsa for lunch. Buffalo soup, fresh sourdough bread, kale chips, and tofu-fudge-cicle for supper. All with lots of tea, water, and a bit of instant espresso. I did spend some time staring at my officemate's butterfinger candy bars but successfully resisted.
So, that was nice. I'm going to be so healthy after a week of this I won't be able to stand myself.

Another interesting thing: Money spent today: $0.
Without buying donuts to share or food for lunch, I didn't need to spend anything. Also, trying not to buy anymore stuff this week. I could use a roof rake before winter (no more letting 3 or 4 feet of snow pile up on the trailer roof) unless someone knows how to "make do" with something else. I'm not climbing up there. A broken leg or neck would cost way more than a roof rake.

Monday, October 19, 2009

No Impact Sunday

(NOTE: I wrote this Sunday night but didn't post until Monday afternoon due to being out of free dial up service this month)

Day One of the No Impact Experiment.
I've collected my trash (with the exception of toilet paper and private lady trash), recyclables and food scraps into one bag. At first it was driving me nuts that I wouldn't be able to put the food scraps in the vermicomposter, but, I've let it go and realized that the point is to look at the quantity in its entirety. Also, I put a separate container out for the food scraps so I can compost them ASAP.

I think I did well. Since I knew I was going to be collecting and having to look at this stuff, I bought less and used fewer things that generate waste.
So, there are scraps from peppers that I'm dehydrating, 2 paper bags from food that I've prepared (I think they held bulk purchased quick oats the peppers), some kale stems from dinner prep, bits of envelopes from bills I paid, a tea bag or two (heh heh...), and the remnants of netflix envelopes from movies I put in the mail. Oh, and a receipt from the food co-op, and the box and scraps from moth traps I bought and put out.

I was also to make a list of things I would be purchasing this week and then try to cross stuff off. I did pretty well. I went ahead with the moth traps because I'd already made a clear decision to diagnose the moth problem here and see if it is just cupboard moths or wool eating moths. If there are wool eaters I have limited time to deal with the situation before I lose my best blankets and sweaters.

As for other purchases, food...I bought a few pounds of apples because they are still at in-season prices and I can dehydrate some for winter use and for taking along as snacks in the car. I bought a bag of peppers to dehydrate as well so I would have a few more to help get through winter. Both the apples and the peppers are local (well...apples are regional) and organic. The dehydrater contributes to heating the main space of the trailer so I run it mostly at night when the heat is most needed. It's not much, but why waste it.

I got kale because I'm trying to increase my greens intake and put that in with my beans and veg in lieu of rice. I also got some organic white flour (I didn't see local organic) so I can make a loaf of bread or two this week with my sour dough starter. I was entirely out of white flour and can't feed the starter whole wheat. My attempts at entirely whole wheat sourdough bread turned into bricks so find that I do indeed want to use some white flour in the mix.

And finally some bulk organic almonds since I'm almost out of fake milk. If I run out this week and need some, I'll try to make almond milk. If not, the almonds go with the beans to make a complete protein and also make a good snack during the day rather than grabbing candy or something else with a wrapper I'll have to feel guilty about.

One thing that is interesting is that I immediately wanted to buy a bunch of prepackaged stuff that I normally wouldn't even think about buying. Possibly just because I was being conscious of my consumption and waste. I resisted. Partly because I'm keeping the trash/waste/whatever all in one bag and a container and will have to look at it again. Nothing like awareness.

I've also been very food focused which is weird because I have a mountain of food in this house..well, trailer. For breakfast I made pancakes from a premix I'd had lying around since last camping trip. I've still got one to eat tomorrow. They are organic, no dairy no egg and with flax. They may cure colon disease. Anyway, had them with peanut butter and honey that I already had lying around. Then, after supper (the core of which I made yesterday...big batch of black eyed peas and vegetables which will last for several days of suppers and is not entirely spiced so I can try to make it a bit more varied than it sounds), I mixed up some instant oatmeal for breakfasts when I'm out of pancake. Lately for breakfast I've been going to work and having coffee and candy or coffee and donuts so this will be a good time to reset to my previously healthy breakfast habits.

The basic recipe for the homemade instant oatmeal is this:
Quick oats (I used organic bulk quick oats from the co-op). Whatever quantity you have, grind up about 1/4 of it in the blender until pretty well powdered. Add about 1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups of oats, if you like it pretty sweet. I only have brown sugar in the house so that's what I added.
Then, add whatever you like. This time I put in quite a bit of oat bran and wheat bran because it's been in the cupboard for quite a while and I was a bit short on actual oats. Then I put in quite a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg because I like that.
If you like, you can add powdered milk or powdered fake milk, dried fruit bits, sunflower seeds, whatever. If you use soy milk powder you get a pretty good protein.
Mix 1/2 cup of your final mix with just a little bit of hot water and you're set. If you put in additives, it's good to shake the mix up before getting each day's allotment out because it will settle and separate.

I'm not online posting this live or doing the online survey for the no impact experiment this evening as I've run out of free dial up for this month...oops! I could run over to the library but it's pretty chilly out and well past dark so I'm going to wait until tomorrow morning when I can post using the public wifi at the IT center the Tribe runs.

So, in summary, I think today went well.
OH!! One other purchase today...gasoline. It was time to fill the car up. I couldn't get into the gas station in Plummer this morning that had gas for $2.43, there were several people in line and the idling time would have been unacceptable, so I went to Moscow and got 2 gallons at $2.69. When I got home this evening the cheap station in Plummer was not crowded and the gas had only gone up to $2.45. That's pretty good for this area. The other stations in town are $2.52 so I'm not sure what's going on. They are usually within a penny of each other. There is one I don't go to because I get noticeably lower mileage with their gas. Don't know why, but it's not worth getting their gas.

I think that as my main consumption today.

No I will continue to watch a great movie loaned to me by Sally (Hi Sally)..."Garbage Warrior"...fabulous. I'll blog about
it sometime.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting Ready for No Impact Week Experiment.

The No Impact Experiment (you can link to it from starts tomorrow.
I'm gearing up.
Each day the organizers have set up a challenge for cutting back on one's impact on the planet. While this may not interest many, I find that the goals are generally in line with simplicity and frugality as well as moving towards obviating the need for war. If we got by on what we have each in our own areas, then we wouldn't need to blow each other up to take each other's crap.

So, Sunday's focus is consumption.
The tasks for the day (I like it when there are specific tasks and things) include making a list of things that one may need to buy during the week and get a bag for all of the waste, garbage, recyclables, food scraps and anything else that one might "throw out" or "recycle" during the day. The other tasks involve really refining these first two.

They recommend going through the list of things that one "needs" to buy and figuring out which can be put off until a later time...for me that covers everything but gas and food and even some food can be put off. Then, what can be gotten second hand, and/or local, and/or free, or made oneself. Or perhaps one already owns something that will work for the item that "needs" to be purchased.
Since I've gone a year not purchasing any new clothes other than undies I think I'll be fine. And if I skip the trip to goodwill (other than to drop things off) I won't be tempted to buy anything. I really don't need to buy anything this week. There are some things I'd "like" to buy, but nothing I really need.

Then, with the bag of garbage and recyclables, that's just to get ready for Monday. So, will have to wait for that.

They also want participants to log on each night and blog about the experience and do a survey. I'm not sure I'll be doing that. Possibly the survey, but I already have a blog so it would seem redundant to write again over there.

And of course using the internet has a pretty big impact on the planet. The servers that make the internet run use power and need to be kept at certain temperatures. They need buildings to be in and need to be connected to the other servers and people make the power to run them, make the buildings, maintain the servers and on and on. Someone once figured out how much power we waste surfing the internet. I must not want to know because I can't remember.

Anyway, I'm going to be trying a few things this week. I will have to see if I slip up and buy something I don't need. It's easier to not buy if I just don't go shopping. AND, I can use that time more productively by sorting out my crap. I probably have plenty of crap that could fill any need I have. I have a lot of crap.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back to Frugality For a Moment

As much fun as the discussion of "straight no frills" was, I'm feeling thrifty. And not just because of rumors about no raises for a while and cuts and whatnot. Also, because I always get in this mood in the fall. Time to hunker down for winter and try to cut costs to pay for heat (and cut heat to limit costs).

SO: In honor of that I checked "Tightwad Gazette Volume III" (I own V. I and V. II after finding them a thrift store out of the library...again and am going back through the thrifty/frugal things I'm doing and not doing and where I can improve.

A short list of some of what I'm doing that saves money or I get a kick out of for simplicity's sake or something:

--Washing hair with baking soda and vinegar
--Brushing teeth with baking soda or salt
--Carrying water in metal containers rather than buying bottled
--Buying clothes second hand
--Canning feral plums
--Keeping a pantry stocked
--Making sourdough bread
--Renting an old trailer
--Keeping the heat down
--Opening curtains during the day to maximize passive solar
--Closing curtains at dark to minimize heat loss
--Cooking with what's on hand
--Making coffee rather than getting coffee hut coffee
--Waiting 6 months before making major purchases
--Waiting even a little bit before making small purchases
--Going to the store with a list and watching sales
--Washing clothes in cold water
--Hang drying all clothes
--Using the crockpot when possible rather than the stove
--Looking for food in the house before going to the store
--Driving only when the trip is outside Plummer
--Combining trips (e.g. getting groceries when I'm in Moscow for other things)
--Thinking before doing
--Using the library rather than buying books
--Netflix and tracking the per movie costs to be sure it's a good value
--Using Netzero and Juno for free internet, if it runs out I use public wifi at other locations
--and much much more

And then there are all the things I don't do....not going to fast food joints, not running to the store when I'm bored, not driving just because it's raining, not solving emotional problems with money.

SO, what about the "needs improvement" (god I hated that rating on a report card...just give me a D and move on):
--Sometimes I DO stop at a coffee hut. While Pam was visiting it was more frequent. Since I drink americanos there is no great benefit to the coffee hut coffee. I DO drink home brewed most of the time. I'm about due to start lowering my intake for the winter anyway so I think I'll start buying it by the half pound again rather than the full pound and extending it with left over teecino and then switching entirely to tea. This helps one ease off the caffeine. I have TONS of tea due to Christmas gifts and whatnot so can probably go most of a year buying only a few herbs for my cold-cure-blend.

--Too many stops at fast food. I know above I said I don't do that and yet in the last month I've done it like 2 times! Really. Zero is better. It's expensive, unhealthy and frankly, not that delicious. I'm thinking if I do a better job having some things that are easy to grab-n-go like a few nuts and dehydrated fruit and even crackers and peanut butter, it will be easy to stop that.

--I've messed up 3 or 4 times in the past months and drank something out of a plastic bottle because it was what was available at a gathering. I hate that. It takes more water to make the bottle than it contains and it contributes to that giant plastic dump in the ocean which is killing so many things. I've kept these bottles to reuse as cooler freezy packs and whatnot, but I always feel better when I don't use plastic bottles.

--I need to put the low flow head on the shower I actually USE. Right now it's in the front bathroom shower. This has been repurposed as a worm farm so doesn't need the fancy showerhead. I had kept the lovely old high flow head in the other bath so I could get the shampoo out of my hair, but since I don't have that issue any more, hardly worth it. Now it's just because I like a nice forceful shower.

--Speaking of water. It's probably time to implement more advanced water saving. I've briefly toyed with "if it's yellow, let it mellow" and using buckets of left over shower water to flush. Perhaps in a month or two I'll pick one and stick with it. Once you get in the habit, it's not a problem, it's just starting that is an issue. Even easier would be putting something in the tank to take up a bit of space...perhaps one of those pesky water bottles. That would be even easier. Must do that.

--Breakfast...this has been a weak point of late. I was buying expensive but delicious oatmeal packets at the local grocery store...but they quit carrying all of their organic options and this left me with the usual mushy sugary crap that passes for oatmeal. I don't even like oatmeal! But these packets were yummy if you used 1/4 the water they said to use. The other option which is cheaper, creates less waste, and is healthier is to make my own instant oatmeal and take it to work to eat. It's easy, I've just been lazy. So once I do that, I'll be back on breakfast track. When I don't have that option or another easy one at work, I eat the donuts that the IT guys bring in and then I have to bring in a dozen now and then so I'm not just a donut mooch. So really, best to get out of the donut sharing circle.

--Lunch. Time to start coming home or having supplies at work. I initiated the solution to this yesterday. Went to the store and got some soups and a giant bag of salad and some salsa. Salad with salsa and a handful of nuts makes quite a decent lunch. As does a can of soup. Canned soup isn't the cheapest, but much better than a store deli sandwich or tacos from the taco truck (not more delicious...just less expensive and healthier).

--Reassessing car insurance, phone costs, and other expenses. These are less interesting to write about but if I make changes, I'll post (as if you care).

That should do it for now!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Straight, No Frills....Not Just For Breakfast Anymore!

OK, back to the whorehouse because that is way more interesting.


The "menu" was mentioned in the prior posting on this topic. I'm sitting here this evening drinking tea out of the mug I bought at the aforementioned house of ill repute. Said mug has the "menu" that was left on the wall in 1988 when the ladies of the night (or afternoon or whenever your shift at the mine ended or your bus rolled into town) fled fearing the feds.

We have not determined what each item is. If anyone can enlighten me in language appropriate to a family-friendly blog, please do.

First are the "straight" selections.
Straight, no frills
followed by
Straight, regular


a clue may be in the following options:

Half & Half, no frills
Half & Half, deluxe

And finally,

Straight, French, no frills

The time allotted per item varied but ranges from 8 to 15 minutes. 8 seems oddly precise until you go down the list and see that the times for the respective entrees listed above are in order: 8, 11, 13, 15, 10.
I do like prime numbers and in this apparently had something in common with the madame of the establishment (she also enjoyed Atari games).

The second half of the menu, presented after a blank line, are the following:

Straight, French
Half Hour
Per Hour
Bubble Bath and Half Hour
Bubble Bath and Hour
Positions, $5.00 ea. plus $2.00 ea.
Vibrator - $15.00 plus regular party price plus $5.00
Doubles - double price per party, time same as one

OK, there are a few things there I do understand. I understand "Bubble Bath" and I can count and tell time. But how the math works on out "$5.00 ea. plus $2.00 ea." is beyond me.
And I think "party" may not be used in the legal sense of "party of the first part" or "person" but rather as in "get your groove on" sort of party.
Then again, what do I know?

I want to call one of the retired ladies and find out these things. It bothers me not to understand the meaning of words that seems so familiar on the surface.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No Impact Experiment

By now both of my readers are familiar with my wish to live off grid and reduce my carbon footprint and whatnot.

While most of the time this is a pretty low level effort mostly consisting of dropping activities that didn't bring me much joy anyway (like using an electric or gas dryer--now I hang air dry all laundry, never owning a dishwasher--hand washing eliminates not only the energy consumption of the washer but also the energy used to manufacture it, not buying new cars, not giving up a car until it's past repair or the insurance company won't give it back, buying used clothes at thrift--only "new" garments are undies, bras, socks and shoes and the shoes get resoled, etc etc). There are a few efforts I make to actively (I see the foregoing as passive...just not doing something anymore) reduce my footprint such as working to combine errands/destinations when I'm driving the car anyway, walking whenever the errand is in Plummer, canning my own jam and dehydrating other fruits and veg in season as well as making some effort to eat more local food and in season food.

Now there is a chance to see if going further would hurt much.
The No Impact Project is launching The No Impact Experiment.
The No Impact Project was one guy and his family, living in an apartment in New York City (you have to say that like they used to in the salsa ads), tried to go a whole year having the lowest impact on the planet possible. I followed his blog for most of that year and now there is a movie and book out.

Anyway, the's a week starting October 18th where people can sign up online and get tips and instructions for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. The thrifty angle to most of this is that it is usually cheaper too. I never have calculated how much I've saved not using a dryer for these past several years. I'm thinking it's in the hundreds now. Probably one ticket to London or so. I've never purchased a dryer so add that in as well as just the utilities savings.

The No Impact Man (what the dude calls himself...realizing fully that it's really LOW Impact Man, but "Low Impact Man" sounds like an aging Richard Simmons-type leading older gals in some easy aerobics so he stuck with No Impact Man despite the technical hyperbole of that moniker), found that his and his family's quality of life increased dramatically. He actually spent time with his toddler rather than parking her in front of the TV (no electricity). She thought washing clothes by putting them in the tub with soap and stomping around was fun, not a burden. They would go out when it was too hot in the apartment. I think they did accept the steam heat in the radiators...and his wife kept her job which meant riding an elevator (electric) to the 20something floor to the office and a few other things. Mr. No Impact used a laptop to post on his blog and write his book. Obviously, someone was there filming. So it was not "No Impact" but it was a good demonstration of how quality of life is not dependent on consumption.

Back to the experiment. I've signed up and await the information on what sorts of things I can try next. The experiment homepage emphasizes that this can be done at any level. If you currently drive a hummer to your mailbox at the end of your driveway, perhaps you could stop and walk the last 10 yards. If you currently live off grid in a mud hut eating only the fruit that actually falls of trees into your hands as you meditate, then I'm not sure this experiment will be of any use to you. The "How-to-Manual" comes out on October 12th. It's an electronic download that we are encouraged NOT to print out. I'll have to go borrow wifi from the library for the download.

Starting with this experiment, on October 18th, I'm going to make a renewed effort to eat more locally. This is not particularly difficult here since we have local wheat (bread!) and I've got that sourdough going. I'm assuming the yeast cultures in it are local. Once I get the local flour I can make my own bread (which is good to do in the winter since running the oven for bread (along with one or two other things to get the most out of the cost of the power) helps heat up the main living area of the trailer). So far with the sourdough it has not been a runaway success. The first batch of bread were two edible but bland whole wheat loaves since I was pretty much out of white flour beyond what I needed to feed the starter. The second and effort was less edible but still could be eaten. The third effort now lives in the compost heap. I was HORRIBLE and so hard that the bread knife kept slipping off when I tried to saw through the brick like objects that came out of the oven. I've got another batch of sponge expanding now with a bit of sugar in it in the hopes that this will help the yeast (sourdough IS's just wild yeast from the air rather than packaged yeast from the store) expand more effectively and add a bit of flavor.

We also have local potatoes, peppers, onions, and many many more vegetables. Unfortunately these won't be available all winter and I didn't get enough preserved to make it through to next harvest. BUT, I figure I can keep track of about how much I buy and consume (as opposed to waste) so I'll have a better idea of how much to can/dehydrate/freeze in the coming years as well as what size root cellar I need and how much I need the garden to produce in the mythic future when I live in a mud hut off grid.

I'll also keep track of what I can't get locally. For example while meat and taters will be easy, salt will not be easy. I don't think they grow that here. We have peppers but I don't think we have in black pepper. Some other spices can be grown in pots and gardens so I'll keep track of what I use most and try to see what of that I can grow.

And of course, sprouts. The seeds won't be local, but in theory, I could grow some mung beans and then sprout them (these are the bean sprouts used in many Asian dishes), grow alfalfa and gather the seeds for sprouts, and etc. Sprouts are a nice way to have some fresh veg on your sandwich in the winter when the produce at the local mart is looking a bit sad and there is no such thing as local lettuce grown anywhere other than my window which has thus far proved too drafty to yield more than a couple of 2inch leaves per week.

OH MY GOD!!! Peanut butter!!! That won't be local. What will I eat? Is there a local nut other than walnut? I think a walnut butter sandwich may be too rich for daily consumption. I don't mind hummus in a sandwich but it will NOT go with my plum jam I think they can grow hazelnuts here. I may be able to make some homemade nutella...hmmm....must research the nuts that I can grow here.

And, local olive oil. They grow a great deal of rape seed here which turns into canola oil when you squeeze the juice out of it. I hope I can get that. Also plenty of soybeans and sunflowers but I don't know if anyone locally turns them into oil...I can get local butter to cook in but that is an issue with my dairy problem. Guess I'll have to cook local pork and keep the drippings. Stirfried noodles in pork fat....could be good could be awful. I'm sure we'll find out.

The Mennonite cook book will be very handy since it has many recipes for soups and stews involving lentils (plenty of local lentils) and root crops (plenty of those too).

I'll try to blog about how this goes. It could be an interesting corollary to the potential experiment next summer with a garden plot the size of a parking spot.

OK, this has not been an amusing post. More about whores and jet boats in the future.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Best Little Whore House in Idaho

Now for a bit more on the vacation.
Pam and I spent a couple days in Wallace, Idaho...recently named one of the 10 most interesting small towns. We didn't know that at the time.

The whole town (which I did know) is on the national register of historic places. Due to that, the interstate is built on stilts above the town. We took a mine tour (silver mining was the it's toxic metals cleanup from the mine waste), and a brothel tour.

The last brothel closed in 1988 and when the current owners bought it several years ago they found that the girls had left everything in place and just fled some clothes and the cash! The accidentally bought a fully furnished whorehouse! How awesome would that be? Way better than just snooping through stuff when you're house sitting (which I would NEVER do).

The tour was pretty interesting. They put gates around the doors to the TINY rooms so you just lean in and see what was up. I was surprised by the tiny twin beds and the cheap and cheesy chenille bedspreads. The furniture was right out of the 1960s and before. Old, dilapidated, and ugly. But I guess the men were not coming in for the decor. ( is impossible to write this without unintended horrifying puns. Just try to ignore them.)

We each bought a mug with the "menu" as it was in 1988 (it was left on the wall). We are still trying to figure out what is the difference between "no frills" "standard" and "deluxe". You can get that on a "regular" or a "french". You could also buy by the hour but then positions cost 5$ each AND 2$ each...what does that mean? There was also the option of a bubble bath. Given that there was only one bathroom, if someone had bought the bubble bath, then the other hookers had to pee in a bucket! Selling your body for sex I can understand, but peeing in a bucket in 1988? I've never needed money that badly. (for the record, also never participated in the sex industry in any format)

The town allowed them to continue business as long as they stayed in the brothel 22 hours a day. The 2 hours they could be out they had to dress appropriately and not talk to people. They had to see a doctor each week and carry a health card. Eventually the sheriff who allowed it was indicted for racketeering, but still almost won the next election. Whoring is only a misdemeanor but the girls heard the FBI was going to raid them and they panicked and ran and never came back. The woman giving the tour says that there were no sex crimes before 1988 when it shut down...I'm not sure I believe her. But she is correct that when the mines were running full staff, several decades ago, the population had 200 men for each woman! And the madame and some of the girls (madame is now dead but most of the girls from 1988 are still alive) say they made good money. The madame estimated that each one could make 2000$ or more per week. They would work a few weeks in one mining town and then on to another or a vacation. One put herself through welding school and is now a welder back east somewhere.

The creepiest part of the visit was not the tour itself, it was the guy in the downstairs (the hookers were up over a store front...sort of like Gramma's apartment), shop where you buy your souvenirs and tour tickets. He was reminiscing about visiting the hookers back in the day. The woman running the place was being pretty obvious about not wanting to hear it and he just kept going on and on. ICK!!! But honestly, looking at him and knowing that he is gauche enough to reminisce with an aging catholic woman about how much he enjoyed paying for "love"...I can see why he has to "pay for love". Who would date that?

If you want to visit the brothel museum, you have to wait until spring. Wallace's attractions shut down over winter due to lack of people.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What I Did On My Fall Vacation.

I've been gone for a couple of weeks with limited internet access. Also, I didn't feel like blogging while I was on vacation.

Here's the short rundown of vacation:
First week was in Iowa where I was promised leaves. There were a few individual leaves that had turned, but not much to look at. Oh well.

Sher, Pam and I went to Galena, Illinois for a night and two days of shopping. VERY amusing. It's a nice little historic and cheesy town. We bought some crap and stayed at the DeSoto hotel downtown which is good because only a crazy person would drive around there on a weekend. We made Sher sleep on the roll-away bed because she's so little she wouldn't make a dent in it.

I also saw Gramma...she called me fat but only once, so that's good. (if you know Gram...don't mention to her the "calling me fat" was indirect and she may not admit it).
I saw my brother and his cabin. Nice cabin he built himself, on a pond...which he also built himself, stocked with fish that he put there. No wonder he's the favorite. He was there when Gram called me fat and thought it was pretty funny. Another amusing point of that evening was watching Gram, who is pushing 90, barely be able to walk around her apartment, then take off like a shot when we got her out to the cabin at Stan's place! She walked to both ponds and up and down the rickety uneven steps to the cabin's deck.
Pam tells me that Stan has declared himself the president of his own nation: Stanistan.
He's also thinking of building a smaller cabin on the smaller pond (which he also built himself) and calling it the outpost. Funny.

What else?
Did a few cemetary tours with Aunt Billie. I knew she would take me on the one in Elkader. That is standard. We saw the usual relatives and Billlie and Keith (her husband) 's plot with headstone ready for them when they need it. Then she mentioned that she would like to see the graves in and around Charles City where she grew up and also see the houses there. We did that. Me, Sher, Billie and Cindy (who is a hoot and a half with her naughty lipstick). First stop was lunch at a cafe on the river. nice. Then we all got in the minivan (me in front with Billie driving...yikes) and started the tour. Stopped by the Hawbaker's old place and the resident gentleman is the same one who bought it a year after the Hawbs moved out. It looks good! New garage and deck but nothing to change the character. He offered to take us inside but we declined. His wife writes romance novels. I forget her penname. He leaned in the windowed and chatted away.

Then we saw a very cool house that Gram and Gramp Wagner had lived in with the kids. The roof has the most extreme pitch I've ever seen and reminded me of illustrations from Hansel and Gretl (I will make no comment about Beulah here...). It's near the Hawb's. Then on to the little house and a few more big houses that they lived in. One was practically a mansion!

Next it was off to the cemetaries. Saw many dead relatives. A few husbands of Gramma Fisher (Beulah's mother), various other relatives.
The highlight this time was a grave spotted on the way out of the Charles City cemetary. This one is not a relative of least not that we know of. It was a recent burial, 2008, and the stone was decorated for halloween. Nice. Cindy and I got out of the tour bus/minivan to take a look and noted that there were a couple of cards in ziplock bags hanging on small shepard hooks near the grave. One was an "I love you honey" sort of thing and the other...well, it was from a child and was a "get well" card. We should not have laughed.
We did laugh. Hard. We're going to hell. But at least we'll get to see Gramma!

Then we tried to get a piece of pie but all the cafe's were out of business so we just went to Subway for a pee and a pop.

Fred served his nationally famous fried walleye a couple of times which was delicious.
Sherry's pear butter was featured at all home cooked meals and snacks (it is VERY good this year).

Sherry and I made some canned bruschetta topping. Hope it's good.

Um...there were two trips to Elkader...OH right. Saw Candyce's future home (she's buying a place). And visited various cousins there abouts. Had snacks at Billies.

After a week in Iowa, Pam and I flew out to Idaho. More on that in another post.