Sunday, May 28, 2017

Self-reliance: Reference Library

1) Reference library.  I can find stuff out without a smartphone or even the interwebs!!!! OMG.  I'm rocking it 1990s style.


I didn't do this every time, but lots of times.  Once I decide I want something, like the Tightwad Gazette, I then start keeping an eye out at the free book bin at the Moscow, Idaho, recycling center, yard sales, and thrift stores.  If something is 25cents, I may get it and then feel free to donate it to a thrift store or little free library or the free book bin if it's not quite what I want.

Here are a few book types in the library:

--Budget/Thrift/Frugality manuals
        My favorites are The Complete Tightwad Gazette (from a thrift store) by Amy Dacyczyn, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide to True Riches by Jeff Yeager, various olde tyme housekeeping and thrift books from the recycling center free book bin or 25cents or less at thrift and yard sales.  I try to cull these every year or two.
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--Cookbooks (real ones) and recipes
         Old cookbooks are better for me in general.  Ones where the recipes start with flour, milk, eggs, rather than "a box of cake mix."  Others might like something else.  The classic Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with guides on roasting meats, making bread and cakes from scratch, how to cut up a whole chicken, etc, is a great place to start.  I got two excellent reference cookbooks from a friend (Hi Jon!) who got them at thrift.  Debra Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass.  Both have guides to cooking many many vegetables.  I use these as guides once I've learned how to deal with a meat or veg product.  I also check out cookbooks from the library and copy out the recipes I like.  A collection of recipes from family, friends, and events needs culling right now, but often serves as inspiration.  I also have a couple of solar cooking cookbooks that I found in the free book bin at the recycling center.
         Food preservation books on fermenting, canning, dehydrating and root cellaring are also in there.

--First Aid and Home Healthcare References
       I found both at thrift stores.  The first aid manual is an scouting one.  The healthcare is based on nutrition and herbs that probably grow in the garden.          

--Basic carpentry how-to
       This mostly lets me know that something is beyond my skills, but good to have.

--Various low cost and energy efficient housing design books (Alex Wade is my hero!!!!)
       These were and are used for planning my "real" house that I hope to have built eventually.

--Beekeeping book (Thanks Hilch and the girls!!!  Great gift)
         This one is a nice basic reference.  There are tons out there so I don't know if it is the best but it is very good.   I am on the look out for an old version of The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture partly as useful reference and partly for the history of beekeeping.

--Dictionary.  Actually 2.
          One basic new one and one vest pocket type from 1906!  Both found at thrift for about 25cents. 

--Manuals for my appliances, tools, systems, etc
        These come in SO HANDY when something breaks or I get the question "what is the model number?" or "when did you buy that?" from a repair person.  Write the purchase date, or at least year, on the cover and store them either all together in a good sturdy box, or in a protective bag/cover and on the wall right by the appliance/tool/system.

--Plant/Animal Identification guides
        I have wild plants (medicinal, food, and otherwise), wildlife, birds, and would like a good mushroom guide.  I also have free e-books on weeds and local native plants.   I may print them out so I don't have to turn on the computer to find the info.

--Gardening/Orchard guides
         From the free book bin at recycling, I got the Sunset Western Garden Book from the 1970s.  Excellent!  I recently found a newer hardcover version at a thrift store for very cheap.  Currently deciding which to keep and which to put in a "tiny library" for someone else to have.  I also have a second gardening techniques book that is similar and may cull down to just one or the other.  I have an old copy of the Square Foot Garden, Let it Rot (composting), and a set of handouts on various plants from gardening classes.  I keep the notes from the garden/farm classes I attend in a hardcover notebook (that I got at a thrift store), so these notes are all together and I can find them.

--Repair and Maintenance and Hack guides.
      I haven't settled on the ones I like, but these are books on how to refinish furniture, fix household items, mend clothes, and the like.  An old housewife's guide from the 1800s has been extremely useful and was a gift from my gramma years ago.  I found a new general fix it guide at thrift that is being auditioned.

--Guide to my garden/orchard
     This is one I am putting together myself.  I haven't settled on a format but I'm thinking one page for each type of tree/shrub/cane-berry to record when/where I got it, when/where it was planted, and how it is doing.   I'll put in notes on annuals in another section or another notebook.

I switch out books now and then.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Self-Reliant vs Self-Sufficient

I was watching the youtubes a while back, because...well, because I didn't feel like working for a bit.

I saw a random vlog post by someone who spoke about being "self-sufficient" vs "self-reliant."
Very interesting.  I think I prefer, as did the vlogger, to work toward "self-reliance" rather than "self-sufficiency."  Partly because people have ideas about self-sufficiency being an absolute.  Much like "off-grid" there are levels of self-sufficiency.  Is one off-grid if one uses gasoline?  One probably does not drill and refine one's own petroleum.  One did not make, probably, the engine into which one puts the gasoline.  You get it...there is a grid out there and it's not realistic to live in the US, or the developed world, and not bump into the grid now and then.  I have a stand alone solar system and a well.  But I do drink water at work from the tap and am typing right now on a computer that is plugged into the grid. So, am I self-sufficient and off-grid?  Is it like being a "flexitarian"?  Those vegetarians who eat meat sometimes?  I'm off-grid-ish at home, but not at work.  Anyway, I don't really care.  I'm not in an "off-grid" competition anymore than I'm in a "self-sufficiency" competition.  I do overtly work toward self-reliance.

So what do I think "self-reliance" is?  (Way to set up a straw man so I can respond to it!  Good debate technique.)

I think Self-Reliance means having the skills, knowledge, supplies and motivation to deal with one's problems, and the self awareness to know when one is in over one's head and needs help.
I'm working toward that.  I don't have all the skills, knowledge, etc yet.  Maybe one day, maybe not.

The last bit, knowing when to get help, is also important.  Being self-reliant falls apart if one can't deal with a problem but won't get help, or doesn't even know to get help.  The problem can upset the whole shebam.

E.g. Folks who don't have the skills or self-reflection needed to see that their debt is a problem and pay it down to a manageable amount, perchance an amount of zero.  I've seen people get credit card cash advances to pay the credit card bill, while not mustering up the motivation to cut up the card or otherwise quit using it.  The problem escalates and in a case or two I've seen personally, put the people out of house and home.  I've also seen someone figured out that they were not good with money, drowning in debt, and not able to sort it out. This person faced the issue, decided this was not something they could solve on their own, and got help.  The help was dramatic and possibly traumatic, but resulted in a better life with cash flowing through a money manager.  The person was able to free up time and mental energy and develop other attainable skills.

For me, I will never be a builder.  I want to learn the basics and play around the edges, but for the big stuff, it ain't a happenin'.  I will never get a roof over my head, but I might put up a wall.  Or maybe hang a shelf.  So, I am getting help with the roof bit.  That takes money so I'm using my mad penny pinching skills to pull together that money.

Here are some of the elements of my self-reliance (not yours, not anyone else's).  I'll do blogs on some of them individually:

1) Reference library.
2) Solar system
3) Well
4) Land
5) Housing
6) Reliable Vehicle (hear me knocking on that wood?)
7) Garden
8) Orchard
9) Composter
10) Paper calendar
11) Notebooks/writing stuff
12) Food stock
13) Sturdy clothes
14) Blankets!
15) "Junk" that seems useful (and often is)
16) Tools for building/gardening/etc
17) Cooking utensils
18) Liquid assets/savings
19) Friends
20) Phone
21) Bees
22) Manual Appliances (like not electric)

1) Knowing what I want vs what I need
2) Food: Production, gathering, processing, preserving, cooking, etc
3) Mechanics
4) Researching
5) Familiarity with resource sites (dumpsters, recycling center, community garden, libraries...etc)
6) Frugality

7) Observation skills
8) Record keeping skills
9) Willingness to try new things, to fail, to assess, to try again
10) Personal awareness/insight
11) Beekeeping
12) Chicken husbandry
13) Paying attention
14) Seeing the whole system and spotting the weak spots
15) Mending
16) Planning
17) Laundry

There must be more, but this is where my brain (and my break time) ran out.  This will be revised as I blog about the bits and pieces of it.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Seriously.  I was planting the final set of tree starts for this year and I can't find one of them.  I KNOW it got planted...but where.  There are about 4 good locations and I've check them.

I may have to use my mad archaeology surface survey skills and walk a tight transect pattern over the entire acreage.   Dang it.

If anyone has seen a twig in the ground without a stake and a label, let me know.

Friday, May 12, 2017

White Trash Craftery™ Part Deux: Hummingbird Feeder

"Deux" is Paris talk for "2"

So, I was spending a day INSIDE (inside the wee shome) because I was sick of humanity.  More so than usual even.

I decided to watch movies, listen to the radio, talk on the phone with carefully selected others, and do crafts.

Crafts.  Tiny shed home.  I used what I had.

A left over jar with a sturdy screw on lid

Turns out I LOATHE caviar.  It tastes like salty fish slime.  But it was on sale and I wanted to try something new...and it was in a cool tiny jar that would be handy for something.

A used bottle with a sturdy screw on lid.  It looks like I used a wine bottle but it was actually filled with stevia sweetened sparkling apple juice.  Also, on sale.  It cost less than the jar of nasty salty fish slime.  I will be keeping an eye out at the recycling center for cool bottles and jars.

A coat hanger (wire).
Duct tape (optional)
A bit of glue or silicon sealant (probably optional)

Tools needed:
Scissors (optional, you could just use the knife on the leatherman or your teeth).

Step 1: Wash the jar and the bottle very well, but don't bother picking the label off the bottle unless you want to.

Step 2: Use the screw top of the bottle to make a circle more or less in the center of the jar lid.
Use the olde tyme bottle can opener thingy on the leatherman to cut a cross from the center of that circle to not quite the edge of the circle.  You want the bottle top to hold the jar lid onto the bottle.
Use the needle nose pliers thingy on the leatherman to tear off these little tabs you just made, still trying to stay inside the circle you drew.  The pliers can be used to fold back, toward the inside of the jar, and pinch the sharp bits from tearing the metal.

Step 3: use the tiny screw driver or punch thingy on the leatherman to make little holes about 1/8inch in diameter around the lid.  I made 4 holes.  A couple were a tad big but that can be corrected later with the duct tape.  Punch the holes from the outside toward the inside so you aren't creating little hummingbird beak stabbers.

Step 4: use the rasp thingy on the leatherman to mash down and smooth out any sharp bits on the jar lid.  When you can run your finger over it and not get cut, it's probably good enough.

Step 5: Use whatever portion of the leatherman works to make a biggish hole in the top of the bottle lid.  Smooth off any sharp bits as above.

Now it gets complicated:

Step 6:  Push the jar lid over the top of the bottle threads.  You want the top of the jar lid "up" when the bottle is upside down.  Once you get it part way on the threads, start screwing on the bottle lid to push the jar lid along firmly.

Step 7: you can put a little ring of glue or silicone around the seam between the jar lid and the bottle lid if you want.

Step 8:  Screw on the bottom of the jar and admire your work.

Step 9:  Use various parts of the leatherman to twist a wire coat hangar around the bottle so you can hang your contraption up, jar at the bottom, rear end of the bottle facing the sky. (Duh)

Step 10: Optional decorative crafty bit!  Find some random British flag duct tape you forgot you had (how do I lose things in that tiny space?), use scissors, the knife thingy on the leatherman, or your teeth, to get rid bits out of the tape and apply these to the jar lid, keeping the  holes open.  I strategically placed some of the tape to smallify the holes that were a bit large.

And Voila:

Mix up some hummingbird food and you are in business!
Unscrew the jar from its lid, use a funnel to fill the bottle.  If you take the bottle lid on and off you will loosen up the jar-lid-bottle-lid joint that is crucial to the White Trash Craftery™ Hummingbird Feeder longevity.

There was a rufous hummingbird at the feeder within an hour or so of hanging it up.  Perhaps sooner since I was elsewhere on the estate for a bit.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Take that MotherFlicker!...White Trash Craftery™

No, a FLICKER.  The bird.  The bird that is destroying me wee shed.

It, or they, has/ve been pecking holes in the cabin for a while.  I covered the first batch of holes with the bits of metal I had on hand...muffin tins from the thrift store.  That looks sort of cute actually:

THEN the stupid motherflicker (I'm assuming it's a parent trying to bring home the bacon/beetles to wee ones), moved to another side of the cabin and spread out the damage.

I was out of muffin tins.  Didn't want to move to loaf pans.  Or baking sheets.

I thought perhaps SHARP would be a benefit.

I had a couple of #10 cans from the recycling center that I'd had plans for.  Plans that were never executed.  So I though perhaps I could use the tin snips to cut strips from those and hang them (White Trash Craftery Rule #1: use what you have).  As I am cutting up the first can, I figured out that hanging 10 strips from the eaves would be complicated and I would never get around to it  (White Trash Craftery Rule #2: plan for your inherent laziness).  The remaining can got flattened out.  The seams on the sides cut off.  Then I cut it as though making a garland out of a sheet of paper. I couldn't find a diagram of this on the internet so I made one for you special.  Just like the actual product, the cut lines (shown in green) are unevenly spaced and crooked.  I'm not bothering with neat work for a stupid motherflicker.

Once you make the cuts, you just pull the ends apart...voila, instant sharp jaggedy metal garland for free!

It was definitely sharp.  I wouldn't stand on it to bang my face into a wall, but I'm not a flicker.  
To put it up, I started a nail through each end, stood on a slippery metal cooler on the weakening boards of my shabby stoop, and tried not to let anything hit my eyes (the safety glasses were clear down in the a quarter mile away (White Trash Craftery Rule #3: Safety is secondary)).

Here it is:

It's blocking the view of the worst holes but you can see a smaller one above the Flicker-B-Gone™ garland and how it has been stripping a few of the battens on my board-n-batten siding.  As it happened, the #10 can had a coppery inside and a silvery outside so this turned out to be more interesting looking than I'd planned.

Of course when the wind blew I was awoken in the night by a mysterious metal rattling sound.
I think that means the Flicker-B-Gone can also be labeled as Wind Chimes.

I'm thinking that putting a few of these along the top of the fence between me and the rest stop might deter ne'er-do-well types.  That makes it both a "Flicker-B-Gone™ " and a "™ ."  With a side of Wind Chimes.