Saturday, March 27, 2010


Four prisms hang in our living room window. Low early spring sunlight shines through them, spattering various surfaces red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Consider the mechanics of differing wavelengths producing something visible. It’s an amazing concept. Reflections off a surface traveling through the air, through the human lens, stimulating cone cells on the retina, and interpreted as color by the brain.

The first rainbow was a promise. God sent it after He flooded the world in judgement of sin. Only Noah and his family remained alive. The rainbow reminded them He would never flood the entire earth again in judgement. A comforting thought. Most of the time we don’t even think about that when we see a rainbow, just that it’s pretty and somewhat uncommon.

I visited a family friend, Lois, in Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania as a youngster. Her concrete block home had a wall of windows on one side, looking down a hill, over a row of trees, a river, then New Jersey. Angry cloud and rain showers moved across the ground in the distance across the river. Flashing lightening in a darkened field, with incongruous sunny patches on either side as far as you could see. When the storm finally moved on, the sky shone in it’s wake with an awesome double rainbow.

Rainbows follow after storms. You might get a smaller imitation in the mist of a sprinkler on a bright summer day, but the real deal comes after real rains. Just when we’ve gotten discouraged and wonder if there’s hope. That there are no promises left. It comes when we need it. If we just look for it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

99 Frugalities

Since this is the “frugal” bohemian, and not some totally heady intellectual blog, I thought it right to write up things we have done and are doing to shave expenses. Most are small but over time really add up. Squeeze those Lincolns until they scream for mercy!

(Household management)
1 reuse aluminum foil
2 wash out and reuse Ziploc bags
3 tie up soap tidbits in the foot of an old nylon stocking and use them
4 make cleaning products from vinegar or ammonia
5 use less laundry detergent than called for, or make your own
6 fill dishpan with soapy dishwater and rinse in a dishpan of clear water
7 cut rectangles from cereal box liners and use as reusable/washable microwave spatter guards
8 re-purpose plastic milk jugs for undersink storage, toilet brush holder, small toys
9 dry clothes on line
10 drain bacon on newspaper
11 use baking soda, vinegar and boiling water to clear out sink clogs
12 turn card board boxes inside out for mailing
13 use grocery bags as trash can liners
14 wash plastic utensils
15 make kitchen scrubbies out of plastic mesh onion bags
16 make rubber bands from shot rubber gloves
17 make cleaning rags from old towels and t shirts thus eliminating paper towels
18 sew up cloth napkins from scrap fabric
19 use the clean backs of junk mail ads, notes from school, etc. in computer printer
20 carefully open up junk mail envelopes, re-glue inside out and use
21 use paper scraps for notes by the phone

22 buy bulk meats, divide and freeze in salvaged bags (frozen vegetable, produce, bread, etc,)
23 start raised beds or container gardens
24 compost pile from vegetable peelings, banana peels, shredded documents, etc.
25 forage berries, dandelion and other greens
26 can and freeze
27 cut milk with reconstituted non-fat-dry
28 use day old bread
29 use other jars for canning (mayo for regular quarts and other jars with lids for gifts)
30 make jelly from canned fruit liquids, or apple peels and cores
31 watermelon rind pickle
32 purchase foods loss leader, preferably with coupons, with rebates, and stock a pantry/freezer
33 eat beans
34 cook from scratch
35 drink water, not soda
36 use one tea bag to make a pot
37 buy from the grocery’s discount bin
38 institute a leftover soup or smorgasbord night
39 save bacon drippings in a jar in the fridge for cooking other things
40 buy cheese ends at the deli counter if cheaper
41 make homemade yoghurt
42 save bread ends to make bread crumbs
43 make bread crumb cookies
44 add bread crumbs to homemade granola before baking
45 add bread crumbs to ground beef for hamburgers, not just meatloaf
46 use a crockpot instead of stove top or oven
47 make cheap meals, get ideas from $5 Dinners and Hillbilly Housewife on line or the More With Less Cookbook
48 check the weight of already bagged produce and buy the heaviest bag
49 buy produce from road side stands or pick your own if you can find a deal
50 glean (different from foraging)
51 gratefully receive gifts of extra produce (yes, even zucchini)

(Personal care)
52 cut own hair, go longer between cuts
53 use up all the toothpaste, cutting the tube open if need be
54 soften solid deodorant tidbits in microwave and refill container with melted bits
55 use up the last bit of lipstick by mixing with Vaseline to make gloss
56 use baking soda instead of tooth paste
57 do not color grey hair
58 rinse off razor, dry, and put a thin coating of Vaseline on to prolong it’s life
59 shave after a shower, eliminating gel

60 buy used furniture from thrift stores. yard sales, auctions, even antique places
61 scrap quilt, use worn out blanket instead of batting
62 use dial up at home or use the library computers
63 eliminate cable TV
64 instead of a cell phone, use Tracphone
65 scope out freecycle and craigslist
66 buy books at library sales, thrift stores, or online used book venues
67 make curtains from flat sheets
68 decorate you home with natural found objects, like stones or shells
69 trash pick (or if you prefer call it trolling or treasure hunting)

70 make Christmas gifts/shop loss leader sales/buy at thrift stores
71 barter (include trading off baby sitting)
72 buy birthday cards at Dollar Tree or thrift store
73 buy stamps online from dealer and get discounted prices
74 pick up aluminum cans off the street and cash in
75 use alternative long distance service
76 do without
77 ask for prescription samples from the doctor or from the drug company
78 don’t get pets
79 take day trip vacations
80 take up walking as exercise
81 buy used cars
82 keep the thermostat lower in winter and higher in summer
83 use the library for videos, special reading programs, interlibrary loan, and informational classes
84 take advantage of community walking trails, free events
85 eliminate subscriptions, read online, or share with friends
86 make your own fun, tree fort from scrap lumber, wild birthday parties

87 wear clothes more than one day before washing (not underwear or socks though)
88 wear clothes/shoes until they’re worn out
89 mend underwear, socks, rips in clothes
90 cut down adult sized clothes to fit kids
91 re-purpose old adult t shirts as sleeping shirts for little kids
92 go barefoot
93 use shoe goo to build up worn spots on shoe heels
94 make homemade baby wipes from Bounty paper towels, shampoo, baby oil, and warm water
95 cloth diapers
96 thrift stores and yard sales
97 discount stores like Ross, Dollar General, Gabriel Brothers
98 online sales with electronic coupons
99 hand me downs or loaners

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stone Soup

We were coming to the end of our time in South Dakota. My husband, Art, interviewed in Oregon where we stayed at a church elder’s home. His house was surrounded by trees, where mists settled into lower winding paths, softening their edges. It lent a postcard quality to the place. One night we were treated to an all church get together. Our host’s sister made a huge tomato based stew, full of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, green beans, onions, and carrots. Someone else baked crusty loaves of homemade bread and supplied butter. It was a very pleasant time. The stew was good, we were still slightly sleepy from jet lag, the house was warm, and conversation mellowed into a soft hum. It wasn’t until we settled into bed later that night I realized there was no meat in the stew, and remembered the stew maker was between jobs.

A Depression era actor, when he finally got a gig, invited all his friends over for soup. He supplied the soup-bone, pot and water, and everyone else brought a vegetable gift for the pot. Some were pilfered, some purchased. One latecomer found her onion arrived too late. Everyone had eaten, and the pot was empty. Feeling sorry for her, the host revealed his secret. Instead of a soup bone, the pot contained one very well scrubbed rock.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In Anticipation of Spring-Dandelion Wine

The check out bagger said his uncle’s wine tasted like sunshine. Was it sweet? Yes, but not too much. And yellow? Ah yes, a beautiful color. It sure packed a wallop too. With that, the corners of his mouth formed a dreamy smile, and his eyes glistened a bit.

It sounded like a lovely Christmas gift for family. And if Katie Luther was known for her good beer, why couldn’t a Presbyterian try her hand at wine? So, this last spring I picked all the yellow heads from our own fine crop of dandelions. It came to about a quart. The internet yielded a ton of recipes. All but two called for a gallon of heads. That eliminated most. Many required expensive equipment too. Well not now. People made dandelion wine long before speciality yeasts and special containers. So I went with an older “family” method calling for a crock and combined it with the recipes using fewer heads. A scrubbed gallon pickle jar, swished in bleach water before rinsing, seemed to fill the bill. When all was said and done it wasn’t quite large enough, so I borrowed another large jar and divided the “must” among the two.

For several weeks the concoction bubbled and frothed. Every day I stirred it down. The smell was reminiscent of friendship bread. However it was an ugly, brownish green color. Not at all yellow. There was too much of an investment to toss it though, and since it didn’t actually smell unpleasant, I persevered. Finally it stopped fermenting. The recipe said to let it sit for a day to make sure, then filter all the solids out. It was still cloudy, not at all attractive, and took quite a few days until the sludgy stuff fell to the bottom. Finally a clearer yellow appeared on top. Now we were getting somewhere. I siphoned it off between settlings a couple times, until only the good stuff remained. One little over zealous suck got an accidental mouthful. Whoa! It did have a kick.

With all the excitement, I’d forgotten the bottles. I cleared the fridge of chili sauce, soy sauce, even olive oil and a couple other oddball containers. Any glass bottle with a screw on lid was washed up and enlisted for the cause. The final product tasted a bit herbal, like sweet vermouth, with the lovely golden yellow of liquid sunshine. It’s supposed to be better if you age it six months to a year. Maybe next time I’ll find out.

Here’s the adapted recipe.
Pick fully-open, fresh, yellow dandelions heads (no stems) on a sunny day. Remove the green base, (called the ‘receptacle’, now we know), from about half of them leaving only the yellow petals. Boil a quart of blossoms in a gallon of water in a large pot for thirty minutes. Strain out the flowers through a cloth lined colander, pouring the liquid into a large, clean gallon jar. Once that cools, return it to the scrubbed pot and add one tablespoon of dried yeast, (I happen to have rapid rise), six cups of sugar, a box of raisons, one orange and one lemon, both chopped fine with the peels on. Stir to dissolve the sugar and yeast. Ladle the whole shebang evenly between two sterilized gallon jars, or into one larger jar if you have it. (You’ll need bubbling room.) Cover loosely with the lids. Every day stir the concoction down and re-cover. It will continue fermenting for about two weeks. Once it stops, strain the solids out, pouring the liquid back into the jars. Wait until it settles. Carefully siphon the clear wine off the top into sterilized bottles, leaving the sludge behind. (I used new plastic tubing made for fish tank filters.) This took several passes until the wine was totally transparent. Once bottled, close the lids tightly, wrap circles of saran wrap over the caps and upper bottle neck, to keep the air out, and cover those with circles of aluminum foil, for aesthetics. Attach homemade labels and they’re ready for gift giving.