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 distressed...no 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 "hi...you 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 experiment...no "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 still...it'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"...like 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.