Category Archives: food waste

Overwhelmed Gadfly

Basically, I took about a week off. I had so many things to do, endlessly that I just got completely overwhelmed. When I took a day off to go to a party, I just didn’t start again the next day — last Monday.

Being lazy and unproductive hasn’t helped getting anything done, but it has lowered my stress.

Anyway, the result is that I still have an overwhelming “to do” list.

  1.  Deal with food, both home grown and from the CSA.
  2. Clean/cull the house.
  3. The construction is on-going because we’ve had so much rain. The two week job has become a 4 week job. Hopefully, it will be finished this week, oh, wait, there’s a holiday — next week, sigh.
  4. Yard work.
  5. Writing.
  6. House Decorating.

None of these are single item, do it in an hour jobs. They are on-going, long-term, intensive and have many pieces.

drowning

Food:

  1. Summer squash (from the CSA) is currently in the dehydrator. Finished. A new batch started.
  2. The latest batch of rhubarb is chopped on the cutting board. I need to figure out what I’m going to do with it. Froze it.
  3. I have the rest of last week’s food from the CSA to deal with. Need to figure a rough menu for between now and Wednesday and deal with the rest. Thursday we get more. No menu, but in process of using up and/or deciding to store the excess.
  4. One way I deal with food is to freeze it. I need to make a new inventory. What I have is completely out of date. In process.

Clean/Cull the House:

  1. I’d love to take a chunk o’ stuff out of the house, put it on the lawn and go through it. I may, if I have time today. But having time is strictly deciding that I’m going to do this rather than something else.
  2. I still have about 3 or 4 batches of laundry to do. I may break down and go to the laundromat in town to get them done, maybe. There are many places I could find enough “stuff” to make this worth doing: the living room, the kitchen, the attic, our bedroom, the office.
  3. Keep working on the “dump” areas: my office and the attic. My idea with this is that if I get these cleared out then I can move some of the excess stuff from the other rooms there. Especially the attic, as that’s what it’s for — right? [Started working to clear out one of the two sheds. The sheds are the outdoor “attics” and they need to be culled and cleaned as well.]

Construction:

  1. Most of this isn’t on me, but they’ve unearthed a lot of rocks and I want to use them elsewhere in the garden. They’ve also covered over a lot of bulbs and they need to be moved to the bulb bed before they’re all dead. In process.
  2. Finally, the big equipment moving across the space did in my stepping stones and the wildflowers I was trying to cultivate as ground cover. This area when they finish will need to be relandscaped.

Yard work:

  1. I need to weed the veggie garden plot. I’m not growing much this year, but it doesn’t do to let the weeds get a firm hold on the space, ‘eh?
  2. Finish distributing the old compost.
  3. Add the new L to the compost heap and organize the leaf pile.
  4. Make up the tutorial for and redo the kindling stand for next winter.

Writing:

  1. Finish the memoir (again).
  2. Write the new novel, at least a draft.
  3. Finish the article for your friend.

House Decorating:

  1. Get the shower curtain liner done.
  2. Get the bookcase boxes painted, if they’re going to be.
  3. Paint the stairs and baseboards in the living room.
  4. Repaint the bathroom.
  5. Move things in the hearth area as per the new design.
  6. etc.

First commentary added 7/4/2017. Includes all 4 food items, cleaning one of the sheds (partial), and moving some of the rocks.

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More Work: Tues & Weds

More was done on the roof and new patio on both Tuesday and Wednesday. This makes doing extensive things in the house awkward, but not impossible.

Tuesday:

I bought a bookcase last Friday. It’s shallow (12″) but long (48″) and wonderfully, it has 5 cubbies, 3 of which fit my notebook boxes. Hurrah!

Because of the new bookcase, yesterday I cleared and cleaned most of the space between the jelly cabinet and the end of the stairs, along the stair rail wall. (It’s cutaway to let heat from the woodstove migrate upstairs in winter.)  Anyway, I removed the 3 bookcase boxes from that wall, cleaned things, sorted the books, etc. into “outs” and “keeps” and put the new bookcase into place along that wall with the only one bookcase box and the short bookcase box on top (it had been on top of 2 larger bookcase boxes). The decorative stuff and the CDs and field guides which live in the short bookcase box have been replaced. I need to refill the bookcase with “keeps” from the sort and box up the “outs” so that they can be further sorted into “try to sell” and “donations.”

The donations get donated ASAP, the others will be put up for sale for a limited time. If they sell? Great! If not? They become donations. I am only keeping expensive or signed books these days for possible future sale. Regular books < $20 aren’t worth my time any more. . . .

Anyway, that’s the next step for the house culling.

Otherwise I have to remove everything from the new cap for those drawer units so DH can make a riser to go under it and the top drawers will move again. Then the top will be replaced, and the bookcase will be empty! The milk crates will be put to use in my office and the bookcase will (hopefully) be put into the attic fairly quickly. (If you’re keeping count, the bookcase will be the 3rd piece (the others are one bookcase box from the living room and the trunk) waiting to go into the attic.

Clearing out the attic has become a priority! So I will work on it and my office a bit more today.

This morning I worked on the compost heaps. I need to distribute the compost from the old heap into the vegetable garden and EMPTY the bin. I have 3 pallets made into a U shape which form the original bin. After way too long, I now have two more pallets to add, so  it will be W shape instead! I need to buy the pieces I use to anchor the pallets. I don’t have any just now. When I get the second leg added, the structure will be complete. There’s a “yard” attached too, for a leaf pile. Right now, that is holding the 2nd (current) compost heap and the leaf pile is a mess piled up on the side. I want to make this a LOT neater!

I used the wood ash pile up this morning too. Then used a layer off the old compost pile. The effort to make the new pile, use up the old pile, and neaten up the leaf pile(s) is going to take time and a few sessions of working on it.

It just started to rain here, again, so it’s possible that no more work will be possible until tomorrow. If it dries out? Great! If not, well, tomorrow I guess.

What I really, really wanted to do late this morning on the attic effort was haul everything from the “island” in the middle of the attic out onto the lawn so that it could be sorted into culls and keeps. The culls could either go to the storage, the dump (Weds.) or antique store.

Sigh. I do not have a “good” Plan B. It’s approx. 11:30, I guess Plan B is to have an early lunch and then examine the stuff in the attic and see what I can do otherwise.

Wednesday:

They brought the posts over which will support the new piece of the roof, this is going to be real sometime soon — or so it appears!

Aside from that I spent a lot of Wednesday processing the end of last week’s produce so that the new batch I’ll get tomorrow will go into a mostly cleared out fridge.

Did 3 loads of laundry, the laundry is finally starting to get caught up. Hurrah!

Did 3 loads of dishes too, and DH did some. If I wasn’t chopping, etc. food thru the day the kitchen would be clean, but it isn’t, because things get used as fast as other pieces get washed and put away. Oh well.

Did a dump run this afternoon. DH and I did another this evening. The sheets got changed on the bed. Fourth load of wash in the machine, 3rd load in the dryer.

Lots of work getting done around here. I think I should get another job, I might be less busy!

Today

DH is working on upgrading the electrical system on his motorcycle. He helped me with some of the leaf moving (rake, then relocate). Later today, we’re off to the storage to work on that.

There are probably more books here ready to be gotten rid of. I gave one  to a neighbor. Have another to ask a second neighbor about and the yard is tidier than it was. All good.

The fertilizer I used up (we’d had it for 2 years, why?) was rained on for the next two days. A lot of it went into the bulb beds, and the daffs. and other bulbs are shooting up green sprouts all over the place. Partly because it’s time, but partly because they got fertilized just as they were starting their spring push. The rain was a blessing for them.

So we need to buy more mulch for the bulb bed to keep out the weeds (grass), but the bulbs should spread out quite a bit this year because of the timely fertilizer and rain.

I’ve been working on the spring/summer food/garden plans,  Between the farm we belong to and the garden I grow (sometimes, didn’t last year) we are usually drowning in green stuff by June. I want a better plan for what comes in/when and what I intend to do with it this year! I’m about 25% done with this piece. Finished the initial data gather yesterday. Pulling it together.  There are 2 or so more data gathering steps before I can make an actual plan, but it should get there.

Off to the storage — ho!!!!

J

We took a file box full of books and a few besides to the market which has the book bin. Gone! I have gone through one box since we got home and have started the 2nd. There’s about 10 more books in a bag to be donated, wherever it is we go next that will take them.

Zero Waste?

We have always recycled. That is for nearly 40 years now. Before you get on me about recycling and its virtues: in college my husband (then roommate) and I recycled our glass bottles at our college’s glass blowing program, had the local boy scouts cued in that whenever they had a paper drive we’d contribute, etc. Later we drove to the base recycling, because it was the only one available to us, it wasn’t the town’s dump. So, okay? I believe in recycling and have always practiced it, for for 39+ years now.

So, zero waste as a concept isn’t new to me. The “movement” I see is new. I agree with it, but I think the ludicrous “posts” I see of a family of 4 having only a quart jar of waste a year to be a cheat. Why? Because if you read these blogs, etc. a lot of what you see is what you’d expect: use vinegar, home-made cleaners, permanent cleaning tools rather than paper towels, etc. But you also see things like the cheat (well, I consider it a cheat) I found which turned me off of all such blogs.

The cheat? The person bought a pair of shoes and left the shoe box with the store. That ISN’T zero waste, it’s just being nasty, giving someone else your garbage. You might just as easily take all your other waste in a plastic bag and stuff it in a municipal trash can.

recycling process

Yes, there are things you can do to lower your waste. You can deliberately find a use for something you might otherwise discard. You can buy big packages of supplies (food and otherwise) and make smaller, more convenient collections of those things yourself (preferably in something other than disposable bags). You can use rags instead of paper towels. You can not buy things with pieces which are trashed every time they’re used. You can pay attention to what you buy and what winds up in the trash. How many bags of garbage does your household generate? Can you do better? (We use 1 a week, plus recycling.)

You can also save money and avoid a huge amount of waste if you just use more of your food. Or learn how to cook, right? Prefab food generates container and packaging you don’t have if you cook yourself. Think about it: when I buy a package of ground meat at my local green market, it’s wrapped in 2 pieces of paper. [I admit, if I’d remembered, I could take a lidded, freezer-safe container with me and use that. I didn’t last time, hopefully I will next time.] Anyway, because we make our own bread, the packaging for us to get hamburgers on the table is the wrapping around the meat. Everything else comes in a big package (like a head of lettuce or bottle of catsup) and is used multiple times. Contrast that with the paper napkins, wrappers, receipt, salt, pepper, catsup packets and bag which make up a bag of 2 hamburgers from your local Mac’s. Is it cheaper? No. Is it faster? Well, my local Mac’s is 25+ minutes away, so yes it is.

food waste

But don’t tell me you’re zero waste and go to a store, buy a pair of shoes and leave the packaging. Get your shoes repaired rather than buying a new pair. Buy a used pair? Donate TWO pairs to a charity when you buy that new pair? Try making it a policy to have minimal shoes. For me that’s 5 pairs: daily shoes, snow boots, fancy shoes, sandals, house shoes. My fancy shoes, if I have them, (I don’t at the moment.) are usually either solid white or black. My daily shoes are shoes I wear when I’m going out, they tend to be walking shoes. The house shoes are slippers or slip ons I use in the house, sometimes I use socks. Honestly? If I wasn’t in a snowy climate, I could manage without the boots and could use the sandals as house shoes and for the fancy shoes too, I have previously. That would leave me with daily shoes and sandals.

For restaurant take out, you can do what a friend of mine has done for decades: put a picnic basket in your car with real plates, cloth napkins, food containers, etc. in it and ask the restaurant to package your food that way. Some fast foods may not be able to cope with that, but some can. Pay attention, do what you can, and keep looking for new ways to lower your impact on the world.

I’m not zero waste, but I admit what I do and don’t foist my garbage off on others as if that somehow makes it “vanish.” It doesn’t. The idea that the things we discard don’t count or will vanish is a lot of the reason we got where we are. So, don’t tell me you’re zero waste and foist your garbage off on someone else. If it comes with the goods you buy, it’s yours. Deal (and be honest).

Revised To Do List 3/6

to do list 1

Keep using pantry goods. Empty the freezer before June 1. Should be as empty as is practical to make it!

Finish the doormat.

Box up the rest of the stuff for the flea market in April

Finish getting the tax info to the tax person before the appt.

Get ahold of my student and tell her when I’m available this week.

Get at least one piece of one item off of the long-term list!

Menu Planning That Isn’t

I discovered that one of my war-time books has a chart with how much food should be used, how often, and what that corresponds to for stored foods (canned, brined, frozen or dried).

Yes, I know the nutritional amounts are likely off, but the last information I found like this was how many row feet of each veggie you needed to grow, per person, per year.

That’s great, if you grow most of your food,  in feet rows; I don’t. I have a few garden beds and get food from markets and a CSA. Also, I don’t regularly buy things like 25 lb bags of wheat berries from Honeyville or other such suppliers.

What I had/could find made it hard to have any idea how much food I’d need to store. Do I have room? Do I really want to do this? (Probably not.) But it was an impossible question to answer before I found this chart.

I believe in the pantry principal, as a money saver, and have for years. (See Barbara Salsbury’s Cut Your Grocery Bills in Half.) But again, how much is sane? What is ridiculous? Where will it just be too much and wasted?

I’ve been working on it. The CSA runs 6 months a year. The plan has always been to not only use the fresh stuff while it runs, but set aside enough to use the rest of the year. Otherwise, it isn’t worth it as it increases our food budget 25% for the year. But if we can buy less during the other 6 months, then it means that I suddenly can afford to feed us organic, fresh or home-preserved food.

I haven’t managed this yet. Two reasons: year one I had no idea how much food I was going to get. Last year (year two) our fridge broke then worked then broke — and we tossed a huge amount of produce accordingly.

But now I know what I SHOULD have!

On the “I’m trying to empty the pantry and freezer by June 30” quest. . . I had one large loin pork chop in the freezer. We had it baked over sweet potatoes, onion, a small amount of raisins, and water. I made gravy from the drippings. Turned out exactly the way I planned, yummy. Today we ate the other 1/2 of this, I diluted the gravy for stock, added some more Better Than Bullion (chicken), chopped the meat added some thyme and made cornbread of a sort. Great lunch. One $3 piece of meat, 4 meals. (It was on sale.)

Not only did I use the pork chop from the freezer, but sweet potatoes and onion from the pantry as well as raisins, BTB, thyme and the fixin’s for cornbread. No recipe for the entrees, no preplanning, just the seat of my pants. I did use a recipe for the bread.

Tonight we should do meatless, but I have a partially picked chicken in the fridge to deal with . . . we’ll see!

One of my other discoveries from the WWII booklet is that I probably should feed us more elaborate meals, I usually do 2  items a veg and entree, sometimes salad. When you’re trying to stretch things the plate gets a bit empty sometimes, more items would help that and also with the empty the stores project too.

New Practices

I’ve been much better lately about using up our stored foods. I changed a few things and that has made all the difference.

  1. Rather than simply looking where I always have for food to cook, I make myself dig through the dark corners of the freezer or pantry before I start cooking. Frequently, I’ll find something which alters my proposed menu.
  2. I am trying really hard not to have leftovers, so I am actively working at using them  the following day if we aren’t using them outright for lunch.

Last night’s dinner, for example, was canned baked beans, with additions. The additions were smoked pork neck (needed to be cooked) and onion. There’s about 1/2C left. Also, after I cut the pieces off to add to the beans I still had a larger bony hunk, which I boiled.

I’d forgotten about that bit of broth and boiled meat but when I dug into the pantry  this morning and found a lima bean and barley soup mix, I decided to make it for dinner (it had been on the bargain shelf at the market).

When I got to the kitchen,  I realized I had a pan of cooked, smoked pork and broth to use up too. So, I did the obvious. I used the broth (and the meat) with the soup mix. The seasoning packet is separate, and I may or not use it — depends on the flavor about 1/2 way, in 45 minutes or so.

Previously, I might or might not have used the soup mix (I gave away a bunch of these last year) and/or the broth (I made and tossed TWO batches of turkey broth in November). I am working hard at changing how I deal with food and wasting as little as possible. Getting better!