Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween folks! I didn’t do any decorating, but apparently a spider around my house celebrates the holiday and spun up this beauty by the back door for me to marvel at yesterday. They’ve never built a web there before, so I know it’s the Halloween spirit.

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large web but no spider in sight…

I haven’t gotten any candy to give out this year. I just couldn’t stand the thought of handing out individually-wrapped, tooth-decaying sugar bombs to little children, so I’m likely going to keep the lights off and pretend I’m not home. Does this make me a horrible person? Maybe. I’ve got to figure out something for next year.

On the bright side, I made a tiny harvest from my garden for the first time in weeks. The jalapeño first appeared a few weeks ago as I was doing some weeding and was shocked to realize the jalapeño plant that I had taken for dead was actually alive and produced this bite-sized offering. Most of my Mississippi Silver cowpea plants now have pods on them, so I picked a few to sample. I never had southern peas before and was pleased that after boiling them they didn’t taste excessively bean-y. They were probably a bit immature still as they’re a crowder variety and didn’t look all that crowded in the pod yet. I’m hoping that when they mature a bit more they’re also easier to shell, yeesh!

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Young cowpeas (Mississippi Silver) and a tiny jalapeño

Well, that’s all. Have a spooktacular day!

A Walk in the Harvested Woods

This week at Talk Green to Me book club, we were discussing Bill Bryon’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s a hilarious tale about the adventures of the author and an acquaintance walking the Appalachian Trail. The stories of beautiful scenery and the sense of accomplishment after braving tough weather conditions and still going forwards–well, it inspired me and I was ready for a hike of my own after reading this book.

Of course I’m not going to travel halfway across the country for a hike, no matter how epic. There are just so many parts of Austin that I haven’t even seen yet. I had an idea, though. And to test it out, I decided to walk to book club at Recycled Reads from my office. It’s not the Appalachian trail, but at 5.7 miles it’s a decent trek. Google Maps predicted just under two hours to make this journey on foot. (And fortunately we are just far enough removed from the summer heat that being outdoors that long isn’t arduous in itself.)

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A lovely wide walking trail along North Burnet Road 😛

This definitely was not the most scenic hike. Since almost my whole route was alongside Burnet Road, I had a great view of traffic and there were all kinds of shopping centers. Fortunately, crossing 183 was easy (I expected more of a mess of traffic lanes like at Lamar Boulevard and 183) and there were a variety of scattered trees and plants that I was able to stop and view more closely at my leisure. I arrived at my destination just a few minutes later than Google predicted and barely breaking a sweat.

Since that two-hour walk didn’t kill me, I was reassured that my more insane plan would work. A couple of months ago, I came up with the idea of a new years resolution to visit every Austin Public Library branch in 2017. Nearly a couple dozen of them. It doesn’t involve buying anything, which makes it a near perfect resolution for me, although not that much of a challenge.

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Map of Austin libraries

Well, you can probably see where I’m going with this. For 2017 it would be awesome if I walked to every libary branch! No, I’m not going to walk from the northernmost Spicewood Springs Branch to the southernmost Southeast Austing Community branch in one go. My idea is to start from my home to the nearest library constituting a single trip. The next trip would be from that library to any other library. And so on, accumulating a new potential starting point with each new destination achieved. For some sense of scale, the distance between North Village Branch and Yarborough Branch is about an hour walking, so none of the branches are more than a two-hour walk from another (although I have the option of making non-optimal trips).

Do you think I can do it? I think I can. The library is closed on January 1 & 2 next year, but I’m already planning my January 3 walk up north to Spicewood Springs branch–a happy 7.6 miles from my neighborhood branch. Worst case scenario, next year December I’ll hop on the bus to quickly visit any branch locations that I didn’t make it to on foot. 🙂

The Literal Windfall

Thursday morning was windy here in Austin. For a few hours, the winds averaged 20 miles per hour, and as I worked at the office I’d often stare out the window for a moment to watch trees swaying in the wind. I was mostly excited about the cooler weather that was on its way in, but when I got home Thursday evening something even more exciting happened. My back porch was sprinkled liberally with pecans! I greedily gathered as many as I could from the porch and surrounding yard and ended up with this large bowl of pecans before having to leave for other obligations.

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Pecans! Beautiful pecans!

There may be some undesirable pecans in that batch as I learned soon after by reading some pecan-gathering instructions from another windfall recipient. I’ll sort them out at some point, but in the meantime I gathered two more bowls full of pecans and have them all hanging out in an extra produce bag. Waiting a couple of weeks for them to cure will be difficult but so worth it.

I’m full of gratitude at the moment:

  • That the house we got earlier this year already had a couple of mature pecan trees. It had been a dream of mine but I was uneasy about the ten years or so that it would take for a newly planted pecan tree to start producing.
  • That some other folks for whom a yard littered with pecans would have just been a nuisance didn’t get this home. 😛
  • For being healthy enough to go outside and pick the pecans from the ground one by one without pain or too much effort.
  • For the extra exercise opportunity. My thighs may have been a tiny bit sore today, but it felt good.
  • That there are now more pecans at the farmers market. While I already had my bags full of good stuff today, next time some of those are sure to go home with me. Have to stock up while they’re in season!
  • And finally, for the cool weather that the wind helped bring in. It was in the 40’s this morning, which for Austin is true Texas weather. It won’t get that chilly again for a while, so the brisk air was savored while it lasted.

And that, my friends, is what a windfall is. 🙂

Book Review: A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy

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I’ve read several books about not buying things, but this was the first time I’ve read one that was just beautiful. Sarah Lazarovic’s A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy is the illustrated story of the author’s own experiences with consumerism, how she spent a year painting the things she wanted instead of buying them, and some advice on how anyone can improve their life by shopping less.

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Oh man, I used to love that show!

I saw this book at the library several times before and never took it seriously. After all, artists may be known for being poor but they’re not known for their great economic sensibilities. But I’m glad I finally gave it a shot. The stories about disposable goods were thoroughly humorous and entertaining. The compulsions to buy minimalist goods (“I have too much crap. I need more of less.”) are something I’ve experienced myself. And I could absolutely have used some of the rules she shares here rather than learn them myself the hard way.

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But… what if it’s on clearance for $3.99???

As pretty as this book is, I borrowed instead of buying it. But it’s really tempting. It’s so easy to read that I kind of want to shove it at everyone I know so they can all finally understand how I feel about shopping. I’ve gotten so used to not buying crap most of the time that it’s just normal now and explanations fail me when the topic comes up unexpectedly. Who knows? Maybe I still will buy it one day. But I at least have to follow Rule #3: “Don’t buy anything the first time you see it…”

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Level 1: Use what you have!

Now, I just need someone to write an illustrated book about why I don’t want the free tshirts that keep being pushed on me.

October is Buy Nothing New Month

Have you been thinking about spending less time at the shops? Less time trying to keep up with the consumerism cycle? More time doing the things you really love?

Join the thousands or more folks who are celebrating Buy Nothing New Month this October (and every October).

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Buy Nothing New Month is the event that really inspired me to change the way I was living. I got into it for frugality reasons, but by the time the month was over I had gained a lot more than a thicker wallet.

  • Buying less means more appreciation for the things you have.
  • Buying less makes you think if there’s something you already have that can be used to satisy a need or want.
  • Buying less means an opportunity to learn new skills like sewing on a missing button or fixing a sticky doorknob.
  • Buying less means you’re less likely to send something to landfill when there’s a good opportunity for reuse.
  • Buying less helps you learn how to be more self-sufficient.
  • Buying less means not having to stop by the mall, so you don’t end up eating a giant cinnamon bun and feeling lousy later.
  • And at the end if you weren’t doing it to save money, you’ll probably have a fair sum left over to give to a cause you care about. Or if you were doing it to save money, you’ll be much closer to your goals.

If you’d like to give it a shot, let me know. I’d love to know how your efforts go. This gets easier for me each time, but I’ll share some tips throughout the month.

I do already have an exception on my list because October is the perfect time to plant perennials, and I’ve been waiting all year for this. But anything that isn’t going to be gracing my landscape for the next several years? Nah, I don’t need it.

Slowing Down

A few weeks ago I was feeling a bit burned out. Constantly tired. A bit irritable. Disappointed with things in general. Work had been hectic and I was fortunate enough to be able to take some time off, but afterwards I still felt completely worn out.

Something else was draining me, and I did foolish things. I went to our monthly neighborhood meeting at the wrong time. I was careless in dinner prep, spilled the food all over the floor, and then just ragequit and let my husband know that there would be no dinner that evening. At another event the next day, I went to a location on the other side of town before realizing that that location didn’t even make any sense.

I didn’t know what to do other than to curl up in bed and cry for a good while. At first I just felt more miserable because I should have been using that time to go water the garden, finish painting the bedroom, or write up a blog post I had thought of. And then it finally hit me. It was that long ToDo list that had been dragging me down. I needed to take some time to just relax, and what better way to do that than to stay curled up in bed for the rest of the day and enjoy a few scoops of my favorite ice cream.

My resolution to plant a few seeds in the garden every day? It changed to a resolution to plant nothing else for the rest of the month. I made an exception or two, but time spent in the garden was much more relaxing afterwards.

Those plans to finish painting the bedroom? On hold.

And the blog post? It takes at least an hour for me to write one. That’s in addition to the hour or several that I had been spending every day to read other blogs. I needed to cut back, but how much? And how? The only way for me really was cold turkey, and like gardening I resolved to stay off of WordPress for the rest of the month. At first it made me a bit anxious, but as I realized all the time it freed up it’s a decision I came to love.

It’s a new month now, and I feel refreshed. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way, but those are the lessons that really stick. My ToDo list is filling out again after the hiatus, but I realize that those things can be prioritized and some of them can be postponed indefinitely. In fact most of them can be postponed indefinitely, and it feels so good to have escaped from that urgency. I’ll do things on my own time.