Water-Only Hair Washing

When I first got into zero waste a couple of years ago, I quickly discovered the baking soda method for hair washing, sometimes called “no poo”. It involves mixing a small amount of baking soda with warm water and then using that to cleanse your hair, followed by a rinse of very diluted apple cider vinegar (ACV).

The thing that intrigued me was the suggestion that using convential shampoo regularly actually causes your hair to get oily more quickly. As someone who couldn’t go more than a couple of days without washing due to oil buildup in my hair, I was totally onboard with trying this out.

Initial attempts left my hair very dried out, but that was resolved by using less baking soda. And then immediately out of the shower my hair would sometimes already feel greasy, but that I discovered by experimentation was the result of too much apple cider vinegar. Other than these lessons learned, my hair didn’t go through the adjustment period that I heard about everywhere else. Then again, maybe I just had lower expectations for my hair. As long as my hair wasn’t brittle or really greasy, I was happy.

I had been diluting the mixtures more gradually. A year after moving to this BS/ACV method, I was finally ready to get rid of the ACV rinse entirely. After a couple of experiments, this change turned out to be totally fine!

A few more months down the road, I ditched the baking soda. Again, no big difference because I was just moving from a super diluted solution to pure water. The baking soda has to be mixed fresh with the warm water to be effective, so I was super glad to simplify this part of my hair washing routine.

At this point, my hair washing routine involves massaging my scalp with warm water at the start of my shower. Then at the end of the shower I switch to cold water and massage my scalp under the water with my head upside down. I read somewhere that this gives your hair more body, but I’m not sure that’s effective. My hair looks the same either way.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably ready to see the results.

My hair one day after washing with water.

My hair at the end of the week (right before washing again).

Pretty consistent, huh?

Unfortunately, we already have highs in the 80s here in central Texas. And since one of my hobbies is gardening, that means I’ll be sweating a lot more very soon. So my once-a-week hair washing routine is about to become a twice-a-week hair washing routine. Still, it feels really good to be free from store-bought shampoo and conditioner. It’s one less thing to worry about.

My Austin Garden In April

After an unseasonably warm winter, we’ve lucked out lately with some beautiful (not sweaty) weather lately. I’m doing my best to enjoy it while I can, and many of the plants are enjoying it as well. Even the fireflies are finally out again. Here’s a sampling of what’s been going on in my central Texas garden.

Cultivated Edibles

Only a few of my tomato seedlings and none of the eggplants survived. One thing I’ve learned this year is that cleaning the pots and using fresh potting soil really does result in healthier starts. Right now there’s one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant out in the yard, with one last seedling (started from a random tomato) still in the house.

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Cherry tomato starting to stretch out
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Roma tomato with a long ways to grow

The jalapeño pepper plants were eaten when transplanted outside. One my coworkers says that rats love them. I’ll bet the squirrels love them too. 😦

At least one of the bell pepper plants is untouched, plus one more still inside.

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Bell pepper plant

The cucumbers and nasturtiums were planted in partial shade this year. Last year they looked really heat-stressed in full, full sun. Now that the trees have leafed out, though, I’m worried they may be in too much shade. Only time will tell.

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The fava bean plants which survived the winter have finally started producing pods.

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Fava pods at the base of one plant

I’ve planted random seeds all over the backyard. The bad thing about this is I always have to be more careful where I step or I could squash a cherished seedling. It’s also difficult to cut down the weeds while avoiding seedlings. That might explain the weedy situation of my backyard currently. But yesterday, I saw a dark sprout that I marvelled at recognizing it as a squash. Several sunflowers have sprung up, the beans are obvious, and many are a mystery.

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Butternut squash seedling
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Royal Burgundy beans

Sadly, I haven’t yet seen anything that looks like a melon vine yet. It’s only the start of April, though, and I still have extra seeds to put out. I will have delicious melons this summer!

I finally pulled up some carrots in March. They were delicious even though there weren’t too many of them. A couple of dozen carrots from three packs of seeds is very unimpressive. I may have to be a more attentive carrot gardener next year, because I really do love carrots.

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Paris Market and Scarlet Nantes carrots

I only got four corn plants from the whole pack of corn seeds. Maybe if I had watered more… nah. I’m probably not going to try corn again anytime soon.

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Corn, mulch, and a few not-corns

The cilantro is already flowering. I didn’t pick any because to me cilantro tastes like soap, but I’m hoping to harvest some coriander seeds before my current supply is exhausted. It’s one of my go-to herbs. Strange how that works.

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Cilantro en route to becoming coriander seed

Is the Fuyu persimmon tree dead? It still looks like just a stick in the ground. The trouble with transplanting a dormant tree is that I have no way to gauge how healthy it is and if it there’s anything I can do to pamper it a little more. I did give it the scratch test, and there is a bit of green beneath the bark. I’ve also read in multiple places online that it can take months for a persimmon tree to come back after being transplanted. But I really really hope I don’t have to wait much longer.

Fortunately, the fig, kumquat, and citrus trees (meyer lemon and satsuma mandarin) are more visibly alive. The citrus leaves have some yellowing, but I’ve applied a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer and have been careful to water them only as needed. Most of the other trees nearby have leafed out happily and the sea of green is mesmerizing. Even the pecan trees at long last have bits of green starting to extend from their branches.

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My new kumquat tree!
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Texas Everbearing fig still going strong
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Meyer lemon, surviving bug attacks

Landscape Plants

After months of patient waiting, the Bluebonnets are finally showing a bit of their namesake color. Unfortunately, grass and weeds are encroaching all around so they don’t get the full attention they deserve. Next year if I can get some started from seed, I’ll plant them out in the front yard bed.

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Bluebonnet plant finally in bloom

During my last stop at the nursery, I was looking at all the seed packets and finally decided to try some lemon grass. The envelope said “Germinates in 3-5 weeks” and I was prepared to practice some patience, but after just four days the first sprout appeared! Now must be the perfect time for it to germinate here, so I just started another couple of small containers today.

On the way home from the nursery last time, I came across this stalked bulbine, sadly abandoned on the sidewalk. This is a spreading perennial, so I’m delighted to add it to my garden.

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Stalked bulbine

It’s the perfect time for taking cuttings here in central Texas. …or so I’ve heard. I’ve never successfully rooted a cutting before. Anyhow, I took a few cuttings of my rosemary and salvias. Once I learn how to propagate these properly I’ll be able to grow a full yard of delightful plants. At the same time, the layering method is also being used to try to root branches of these plants that I can transplant next year.

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Rosemary cutting time!

Sadly, the Esperanza also never came up. I’m going to take this as a sign that perhaps I shouldn’t try to plant things in January. The weather fluctuations between the 30s and 80s are probably too much for any reasonable plant to bear unless they already have a good foothold. Or maybe it’s just for advanced gardeners.

Wild Edibles Discovery

When I first saw the wild onions in side yard, I thought they were the garlic chives sprouted from seed I scattered. Well, nope, the chives never showed. I’ve since seen the wild onions in other places around the neighborhood and even saw them mentioned on tv so I’m sure of the identification. I can’t seem to get a good picture of these, though.

Also, I knew wild blackberries live in some places around town but I’ve never seen them firsthand. That explains why when I first snapped this picture I didn’t even consider it as an option until further explanation. Time to start cultivating the weeds!

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A wild blackberry perhaps?

… but I can sadly no longer recall where exactly I took this picture and can’t find it anywhere. At least now I know better.

But the best discovery of all was the identification of one backyard tree as a Mulberry. I don’t remember seeing any fruits last year, but maybe I wasn’t looking. Or maybe the squirrels got them as soon as they were ripe. This year my eyes will be open. This weekend I also made the fortuitous discovery of a tree with already-ripe mulberries not far away and they were amazing! I can hardly wait for the fruits on my own tree to ripen.

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Leaf and fruit sample from my tree. So the internet could tell me what it was.
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Ripe mulberries discovered in front of a house in the next neighborhood

 

Things I bought in March

March wasn’t so bad. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden rather than at the shops. I bought a couple of items from my wishlist and bought fewer plants than in February, but did acquire more free stuff than expected. And my wishlist is getting longer with big ticket home improvement purchases coming up. Maybe someday we’ll get a boarder for the extra bedroom so at least these costs wouldn’t be for just the two of us.

Check out previous lists from January and February.

Plants

The days have already been starting to feel hot, so my plant purchases are finally dwindling down a bit. (Maybe next month they won’t require they’re own category?) I did buy yet another citrus tree as a splurge purchase. After all, the kumquat is the one tree that I really wanted to buy but hadn’t been available in the nurseries every other time I checked. Other than that, just a couple of small potted plants and a couple of seed packs. Unfortunately, I’m almost out of seed starting mix (it goes fast once you realize that using fresh mix every time really does prevent damping off) and may have to get some next month.

  • Meiwa Kumquat tree – yay! kumquats!
  • Chili pequin – because what could be better than a perennial pepper plant
  • English thyme – to see how well it spreads for groundcover potential
  • Lemon balm seed (already sprouted)
  • Lemon grass seed (sprouted in under a week although the pack said 3 to 5 weeks) – because lemon grass is reputed to repel mosquitoes
  • Succulent pieces (orphaned pieces that I hope to propagate into full plants)
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How could I resist?

Not New Stuff

Wow, this list is fairly long this month. I went to Goodwill and found exactly what I was looking for early in the month, but the other things just happened.

  • Rain boots – I now have no fear when trolloping around the poison ivy-infested side yard (from Goodwill).
  • Mini-blinds for the front window for extra privacy. These were kind of new but I found them at Goodwill so close enough.
  • 3 Shirts – Swapping out shirts I like less at the Really, Really Free Market. I know it’s meant to be free stuff but I participate like it’s a swapping party.
  • Patio chairs – I didn’t even ask for these but my mom dropped off a couple of old patio chairs one morning. They’ve actually been quiet convenient as a sort of shelf in the garden.
  • Plants – I’ve been doing some research online, and of the plants already in my yard, I may just have wild onions, wild blackberries, wild Muscadine grape vines, and a Mulberry tree. I’ll definitely be paying close attention to see if my identifications are correct!
  • Soil – From a neighbor doing some landscaping.
  • Mulch – well, grass clippings and leaves collected from sidewalks, as well as a few lawn bags set out on the street that I furtively made off with.
  • A book – one of the other book club members gave me an extra copy of the book for next month, so I don’t even need to wait for it at the library.

New Stuff

  • Lawn bags – I’m not sure if these count because I bought them at my mom’s request (I don’t count the tons of stuff my husband chooses to buy), but I did buy them before helping her rake up some oak leaves in early March. (My mom’s composts many things but the oak leaves just don’t seem to be breaking down.)
  • Line for the weed eater – The lawn (and weeds) that are already wide awake. My husband is happy to help out as long as it gets a clean trim, so weed eater it is.
  • Toilet paper

Things I didn’t buy

  • More tomato seeds – Even though I have only two tomato plants that survived this year, it’s already getting hot out and may be late for Spring planting. I may consider starting fresh tomato plants for the fall garden, though.
  • Machete – I was looking at these on Etsy but it’s too soon to determine if it’s worth purchasing. It’s on my wishlist below though.
  • Fast food – I gave up fast food for Lent as well as eating out in general for the most part, but I’m ready to have pizza again. 😛
  • Seed starting containers – In addition to the plant pots I’ve saved from previous nursery visits, working in an office means I have access to plenty of food to-go containers. It’s not hard to find on the perfect size and even with an already vented lid.
  • Esperanza – The one I bought last year is definitely dead, but I’m going to give seed starting another try for this one. There are plenty of Esperanza bushes in the neighborhood to grab a few seeds from later this year.

Wishlist

Super long wishlist too! Fortunately, I know I won’t be indulging in all of these things in April.

  • A new roof! I finally got around to mucking out the gutters, and those shingles don’t look like they’re protecting our home that much anymore. Time to start checking out the roofers in this area. My goal is to get this done in the next month if possible.
  • Rain catchment system — gutters around the rest of the house and rain tanks. This is less about saving water than it is about saving my soil and preventing further erosion. (This has always been part of the post-new-roof master plan, but now it feels close enough to put on the list.)
  • Machete – My favorite lawn tool so far is definitely my scythe. It’s one of the most effective tools, the easiest, and hardly requires any storage space. With no lack of weeds, I’ve been considering a machete, grass hook, or other implement for the smaller spaces where I just can’t control a scythe with enough precision.
  • New tub? I’ve sealed up the crack again for now and caulked around the edges since the roof is first, but someday…
  • Bricks/pavers – Am still collecting the rogue brick for use in the garden whenever I come across it.
  • Seed starting mix – As I mentioned above, I’m almost out and I’m trying to reduce how many seeds I’m starting inside but will probably need more before long.

Ready to go in 10 minutes

One of the greatest things about simplifying your lifestyle is less stress and having more time for the things you care about. In my case, I now have the choice to either get up when my alarm goes off in the morning for a slower morning routine or to caress the snooze button a couple of times and be out the door in under ten minutes of when I do get up.

Obviously, if you have a job where a perfectly polished appearance is required, you won’t be able to do this. I am extremely grateful to have a job with a more casual dress code and where you could probably even get away with a vicious cowlick without any snarky comments.

My morning routine…

 

I give my face a quick scrub with a wet washcloth. For this purpose, the slight abrasiveness cleans as well as soap (better actually since it doesn’t dry out my skin). And after years of feeling ashamed of going out without at least a bit of foundation, I’ve finally grown comfortable with my own skin instead taking time every morning to apply product all over my face.

Clothing takes only a moment to throw on. My shirts are sorted on the closet rod based on how recently they’ve been worn, so it’s easy to quickly grab the next shirt due. (If I find myself wanting to skip a shirt more than once, that’s a pretty good sign that it should be passed on to someone else.) Then I just have to grab one of three pairs of jeans as well as one of three pairs of shoes to go with it. There are few requirements for matching outfits, other than that one of my pairs of jeans is slightly longer and works best with the sneakers which are taller than the other shoes.

My weekly hair washing is on the weekend. On a work morning, all it takes is a few quick swipes with the brush, and done! On the same note, I almost never take a morning shower. Even during the summer when I can use a shower more frequently, I’ll usually do that in the evening as soon as I get in from the evening.

This leaves plenty of time in those ten minutes to use the bathroom, brush my teeth if I want, check emails or the weather forecast, etc.

When it’s time to go I’ll give my husband a kiss goodbye. He’s still in bed when I leave the house (great for me because it means uninterrupted access to the bathroom).

Finally, I grab my backpack, wallet, keys, phone, and lunch bag or snacks if I have anything prepared. And that’s it. I’m out the door and can read or listen to music during the short bus ride to work. It’s a super-low-stress way to start my day and incredibly freeing. My only complaint is not learning about this sooner.

The Garden in March

There have already been several days in the 80s this year, so you know it’ll be just moments before the unbearable heat of summer hits us here in central Texas. March may be the best time to be out in the garden, so here’s a quick pictorial of what’s in my Austin backyard garden right now. Apologies for an exceptional amount of blur on some of the photos. The mosquitoes are already out, and I had to keep moving to keep them away.

Veggies

Some of the swiss chard that I planted a month ago in unamended soil has finally sprouted. We’ll see how well that grows.

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Swiss chard has finally sprouted

One of my coworkers shared some extra beans. I soaked them overnight before planting and they started sprouting within a few days. Beans seem to grow so well here in Austin, and I’m looking forward to getting my cowpeas in the ground soon.

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Purple garden beans

A couple more spinach plants are starting to come up. These have grown way more slowly than I expected, though, and I’ve only had a few leaves most weeks. Next year I’ll try planting more.

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Spinach

The garlic looks pretty healthy. I have about 20 of these scattered around the garden.

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Garlic

Radishes haven’t turned out that great for me previously, so I’ve gotten lazy recently and just scattered seed on top of the soil. Still, there are some nice little plants forming which I can either use for radish greens or let them go to seed. I read you need quite a few radish plants for them to be pollinated correctly, so I may just let the radish bunches all go to seed.

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Radishes coming in

The one broccoli plant that grew has already bolted without producing any florets. Next season I’ll try collard greens instead since I’ve seen those grow well in other gardens in the area.

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Broccoli in bloom

You can just make the edges of carrot fronds in these pics. The number is really disappointing considering I scattered three packets of carrot seeds this year. Next season will require some strategy because I love carrots.

I only have a handful of onion plants that grew from seed (planted in October), but I have confidence that these are the toughest ones and they’ll grow into delicious onions.

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An onion grown from seed

Most of the onion transplants that I bought last month are doing alright. This picture is from a few days ago. I actually did weed and mulch a bit around them today. I just hope the rain stops knocking them over before they can put out some better roots.

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Onion transplants

The fava beans have grown tall and have sweet white flowers on them. They’ve been covered with unidentified tiny dark insects much of the time, but then ladybugs came and enjoyed chowing down so I left them as is.

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Fava bean plant

The cilantro is doing well. If I actually liked cilantro (it tastes like soap!) I’d be using it already, unlike almost everything else in the garden. I will pick a bit for my husband to enjoy, but really I’m growing it for the (coriander) seeds which is great seasoning for soups, pasta sauce, and many other things.

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Cilantro

Also of note is the garlic chives, which didn’t grow anywhere I planted them in my garden but did grow from the few seeds I scattered in the side yard by the creek. If they survive until the fall, I’ll transplant a few for convenience.

Also not pictured is the cherry tomato plant–the one tomato plant I grew that hasn’t died on me while still a seedling. The plant is still fairly small though, and the tomato I took the seeds from was possibly a hybrid so there’s no telling how it will produce.

Indoors the only plants alive at the moment are a couple of eggplant sprouts, a couple of bell pepper sprouts, and a few tomato sprouts that just this afternoon poked up from the dirt.

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Eggplant

I’m tired of seeing seedlings die but may get some more Roma tomato seeds anyway as I really want to make and freeze some more tomato paste this year.

Perennials

The Mexican Mint Marigold is coming back to life after its winter slumber. This area also got the weeding and mulching treatment today so it looks a bit better than this now.

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Mexican Mint Marigold

The Mexican Honeysuckle looks almost exactly like it looked when I planted it a month ago. I was hoping it would grow into a small shrub. Maybe as the weather continues to get warmer.

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Mexican honeysuckle

 

Not pictured are the spearmint, a couple of rosemary plants, oregano, a couple of salvias, and a lavender. My trials of santolini, dichondra, and sedum also aren’t pictured because they still look exactly like they did when planted recently. Grow, plants, grow, come on!

In sad news, the lemon balm didn’t survive my attempt to keep it as a houseplant. The chile pequin and lemon verbena which I planted late last year also appear not to have survived the winter, but I’ll keep checking.

The esperanza that I recently bought and planted is also not yet showing signs of life, while other estabilished esperanza plants in the neighborhood have. Hoping mine is just still putting down roots and will give some green soon.

Trees

This year has been a big one for fruit trees. I’ve acquired a persimmon tree, which is still dormant and still looks like just a stick in the ground, but persimmons are known to require some patience.

I transplanted my two-year-old Meyer lemon also. Some of the leaves are starting to yellow, but that’s either due to too much rain or not enough of specific nutrients that I can’t feed it with well while it’s getting so much rain. It had better hang in there until the dry season starts so I can give it more targeted attention.

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Meyer lemon tree

If that fails, I have another baby Meyer lemon tree inside that just needs a bit more time to grow big and strong .

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Baby Meyer lemon tree

The satsuma mandarin has the same yellowing leaves as the Meyer lemon. But it’s a survivor, I can feel it.

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Satsuma mandarin tree

Finally, there’s the fig tree which is the most promising so far.

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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

In less fruity news, there are also four baby Texas Mountain Laurel trees growing strongly in the front yard. Although just a couple of inches high now, they’ll keep growing slowly and in a couple of years become beautiful little shrubs. And someday, graceful small trees.

Bonus

As a final bonus, we just discovered these growing in the side yard by the creek. From showing this pic around to coworkers, it sounds like they may be daffodils! They’re doing so well on their own that I’ll just let them be for a while longer.

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Daffodils?

Bonus #2

But what’s this growing in a neglected part of the yard? Ugh, I don’t know how I can ever get rid of all this stuff.

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Poison ivy and Virginia creeper

Things I bought in February

I managed to stay away from the thrift shops all of February, so this shouldn’t be as long a list as last month.

However, one of the things I noticed was that last month I was eating out regularly — three or even four times a week. It’s hard to resist. Therefore, I’m giving up eating out for lent. All the food I purchase will be basics (maybe a jar or two of spaghetti sauce in there though), and I’ll be doing more cooking next month. That should get me back on the right track.

Plants

My plant-buying spree continued this month–a couple of fruit trees, some onion transplants, and a handful of small (perennial) plants to experiment with and see what grows well/easily here (I’m hoping for some of these to expand quite a bit). Fortunately, it’s already getting fairly warm out, with highs frequently in the 80s, so from this point out it’s mostly about keeping these alive. No more plant spurges until fall.

  • Fig tree, Texas Everlasting
  • Autumn Sage
  • Onion transplants
  • Mexican honeysuckle
  • Satsuma mandarin tree
  • Santolini
  • Dichondra
  • Sedum
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Fig tree, already leafing out since I brought it home a few weeks ago

Not New Stuff

Toward the end of the month, I stopped at the Really, Really Free Market again to drop off a few items and scored some great finds.

  • Shirt – I’m slowly refining my style, replacing one shirt at a time.
  • Pair of jeans – Not needed yet, but I’ll stash these as a backup pair. They’ll need hemming before I wear them anyhow.
  • Couple of bras – This is the first time I’ve found a bra secondhand which actually fits well, and there were two of them. So excited! Don’t worry, I did wash them.
  • Lentils & spices – Another rare find. Someone apparently cleaned out their panty, and I grabbed what I expected to use. Very glad to get some marjoram as I’m out of oregano, and marjoram will do in a pinch.
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Lentils and spices from the RRFM

New Stuff

  • Kitchen lights – These are the long tubes and I’d like to switch to smaller LED lights at some point but that can wait a while longer
  • Bar soap
  • Toilet paper
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One of the two dead lights replaced in the kitchen

Things I didn’t buy

  • A new mailbox – Early in the month ours was hit by a car and it doesn’t quite close properly anymore. But after being re-erected, it’s functioning well enough.
  • Mulch – I can always use more mulch, but I stole a couple of leaf bags and an xmas tree left on the curb on lawn-waste pickup day. We’re rich with organic matter now.
  • Even more plants – Yes, I could have gone much further.
  • A new umbrella – I left my umbrella one day and got rained on slightly. It wasn’t horrible.
  • Shampoo – I’ve been doing water-only hair washing for several months now and am never going back.

Wishlist

There are a few new items on the wishlist. I may be hitting the thrift stores in March for those first two.

  • Rain boots or other tall sturdy boots for gardening by the creek, now that the poison ivy is starting to spring back to life.
  • Mini-blinds for the dining room window, for more privacy than the current curtains offer. (We’re right on street with high pedestrian traffic to look in.)
  • Fresh tomato seeds if I keep killing off my tomato attempts 😦
  • New tub? I don’t know who invented these cheap plastic tub-like shells. Not sure if this one can be saved.
  • Bricks/pavers – This one is difficult to score second-hand without a car, but I’ve been very slowly collecting the rogue abandoned brick for the garden and would like to pick up the pace a bit.

The Not New Rain Gauge

As a kid, an occasional chore I had was to water the plants. I never wanted to, so I never had to be told to not water the plants. But now after getting into gardening a bit myself, that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn. That you can kill plants by overwatering them!

For a while, I wanted a really nifty rain gauge that would tell me exactly how much it had rained. After joining the Buy Nothing New project, I considered making one myself. It would just take a cup, a ruler, and a permanent marker to get my beautiful rain measurements.

But finally it dawned on me that I was still overcomplicating things. I threw a spare bowl outside and it now sits there waiting for rain. Sometimes it rains and then the sun comes out, and by the time I look at the bowl it’s empty or with only a few drops clinging on. No matter whether it was just a light rain or if the sun dried it quickly, it simply doesn’t count as a watering for my plants.

But today, oh, today. There was only some light drizzle when I woke up. I was disappointed that the forecasted rain had failed me again and most of the plants were likely still thirsty. Yet when I got outside the water gauge was full! This meant I could just leisurely stroll around the yard and admire the plants that were growing themselves. No need to even stick my finger in the dirt to check the moisture level. The plants will have their fill for at least a couple more days.

My rain gauge is perfect because I can read it even from the bedroom window, because it’s more durable than the flimsy plastic one I would have otherwise bought, and because once the neighborhood cat curled up inside the dry warm bowl for a nap. You’ll never see that with a store-bought rain gauge. 🙂

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The water gauge today reads “Don’t water the plants!”

Gratitude

It’s a time of great unrest. In addition to the possibility of the EPA either being eliminated or otherwise losing the authority to protect our health, there’s a lot of debate over our country’s responsibilities for residents who are not yet legal citizens. The past couple of days, there have been protests just down the street in response to recent ICE activities here in Austin.

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During the day it’s been pretty tame, but as it gets later and more people join in, things start to break down a bit.

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While the worry may be sometimes grating, it’s helpful to take a step back and think about those things that I’m grateful for with respect to everything going on.

Freedom of Speech / Freedom of Assembly

I’m grateful for our constitutional rights which allow people to speak their mind and have open discussions. People may not always say things that I agree with, but it’s also important to understand what the people around you are thinking and feeling and that’s just not possible without free speech.

Helpful Neighbors

My neighbors may not all be on the same side of the immigration issues, but everyone agrees that helicopters flying low through the neighborhood keeps us from getting to sleep at night. A few neighbors shared info on NextDoor about how to properly submit complaints about the helicopters that were buzzing the walls when passing over but which weren’t actually doing anything useful. And I’ll share my gratitude with these folks for the helicopters finally leaving so everyone could get some sleep.

Internet Video

Ok, so I’ll admit that I can get a bit annoyed about overconsumption. Do people really need a video camera on their person at all times? Do they really need to share their videos with the whole world? Do they really need the ability to upload it immediately?

But I’ve gained something from this event and I really do appreciate people sharing video of the protests. It was easy for anyone to see that it was a peaceful protest. And as someone living in the vicinity, it was the quickest way to confirm that a series of shots going off was actually fireworks.

Respectful Drivers

At times the protesters were blocking traffic as they paraded around the intersection. Naturally this led to a couple of incidents, but I’m really grateful that most of the drivers just continued on their way without escalating things.

Respectful Police

Yes, there were a few incidents here also, but for the most part there was respect all around. From the protesters, who respected the police who were there to keep both them and everyone else safe. (The protest happened to be at one of the most dangerous intersections in Austin.) And from the Austin police, who respected everyone’s rights. Protesters and police generally had open conversation (rather than yelling at each other as I’ve seen elsewhere). And I’m glad the police eventually shut down the intersection to vehicle traffic to ensure everyone’s safety.

 

Whew, just writing that down makes me feel a little better. Now I just need a little time in the garden to find my balance again. No stressful shopping for me, folks!

Book I Read In 2017 – Part 1

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. It’s free. It helps me better understand other people. And I can totally do it while curled up in bed on a cold day. This year I thought it would be interesting to keep track of what I read just to see how my interests change over time. Even within this past month, however, there seems to be a pretty decent variety.

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The Book of Genesis by R Crumb – If you’ve already read a couple of translations of Genesis and are interested in another perspective, this illustrated book definitely fits the bill. The illustrations are sometimes distracting from the story but more often add another layer of context and understanding.

War with the Newts by Karel Capek – The plot is similar to Capek’s R.U.R. in that there are creatures who start to become more human-like and then get out of hand. This book touches on war, slavery, humanity, and invasive species. It’s a delightfully quick read, but it makes up for that with time that you spend staring out into space just thinking about things.

One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry – If you had to draw 100 of your personal demons, what would they be? One of mine would probably be a leaf-footed stink bug because they’re just creepy. Here Barry shares her own demons in these illustrated stories.

Eco-Chic Home by Emily Anderson – There are only a few projects in this book that I’d do. The rest left me either uninspired or in some cases disappointed that perfectly good items were being upcycled into something of lower value.

90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry by Henrik Lange – In one page each, I finally learned the super high level plot of some classics like One Hundred Years of Solitude (I’ll read it someday) and Lolita. Others I had already read, and the summaries varied from hilarious to meh. And yet others, I had never heard of. (How do you define “Classic Books”?) If you pick it up in the library, you can probably read the pages for just your favorites and be done in a few minutes, so there’s nothing to lose.

The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden – This is a sometimes humorous, sometimes serious graphic novel, telling the story of the author’s own life and the ways in which she’s been impacted by breast cancer. So many people I’m acquainted with have been diagnosed, and the whole time I was reading this book I was hoping she would explain what the hell is going on with the world. But I start thinking that way whenever my brain gets on this topic. Would recommend this book both for the engaging storyline and the insight into understanding how different people deal with hard truths.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond – This was our book club book of the month. First of all, one word of warning, this is a really long book. That said, it contains insights into why people sometimes do things that destroy the environment, against their own best interests. One of the stories involves Easter Island, once full of trees totally deforested by the time Europeans set eyes on it. For the person who cut down the last tree, what was he thinking?

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger – Yet another graphic novel, this time about a bookmobile that contains everything the visitor has ever read, including cereal boxes and journals, and about the lengths that one person would go through to be united with these written memories forever.

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah Van Sciver – This book left me in the lurch, as I was afterwards wondering how in the world this guy could have ever become president. I may have to read a full biography someday to learn what happened in that gap before my education kicks in about him actually being president. Wouldn’t recommend just because it ends so early.

Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier – Some of these would absolutely not grow in central Texas, but I now have a few more plants on my wishlist. I just wish there was also such a thing as a carrot tree.

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte – Most books about garbage get either excessively scientific or depressing, but I love them all anyway. And this book is even better because it’s told by an outsider of the garbage world who is enthralled to explore what becomes of her refuse. She jumps hurdles to be able to visit landfills, MRFs, composting facilities, and more. In her more personal journey, she tracks those things that she disposes, tries to reduce her own garbage, attempts to reduce the related manufacturing garbage by buying less, and finally discusses extended producer responsibility. Loved it. 🙂

That’s it so far! You may see some other gardening books in the photo above, but I’ve only listed out the ones where I read at least half of the book this year–not just a particular chapter for reference or a quick skim before setting it aside uninterested. These all went back to the library today. Time to pick up the next set of good reads!

Things I bought in January

At the start of the month there were several things on my list of purchases I wanted to make. I must have been on a spree because now that list is totally empty!

I bought food, a bus pass, and paid the bills. As for everything else, there were a bunch of plants and plenty of not new stuff, but there were a few brand new items thrown in as well.

Plants

These are mostly perennials which will last us year after year. The only short-lived plant in this batch is the bluebonnet but, well, this is Texas and the seeds I scattered around the yard apparently didn’t take this year. If they don’t sprout next year, I’ll just have to deal with it and visit a bluebonnet patch elsewhere to relive my childhood memories.

  • Potting soil (my last bag lasted a year, so not too bad)
  • Bluebonnet
  • Spearmint
  • Provence lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Esperanza (to help shade the south side of the house in summer)
  • Fuyu persimmon (for shade and future fruit)

Not New Stuff

I’ve been careful to avoid Goodwill several times this month and didn’t even stop at the Really Really Free Market, so before tallying this up I had no idea I got so many new-to-me things! Fortunately, they’re mostly useful. I’d been wanting/needing a good ladder for the past year, have worn out a couple of pairs of shoes recently, and checked off a few punch list items for the house.

  • Replacement doorknobs (Habitat ReStore)
  • Porchlight cover (Habitat ReStore)
  • Trim paint (Habitat ReStore)
  • Curtains (Habitat ReStore)
  • Jigsaw puzzles (Freecycle)
  • Gorilla ladder (Craigslist)
  • Curtain rod brackets (Savers)
  • Shoes (Savers)
  • Cast iron mini-skillet (Goodwill)
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Comfy new-to-me shoes
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Mini-skillet to melt butter for popcorn (or cook something small like an egg)

New Stuff

This list could have been shorter, but I wouldn’t take any of it back.

  • Toilet paper and bar soap.
  • Rat traps and cementish puttyish stuff because rats got into the attic. I was planning to take care of this myself but then a month passed without me doing anything, with possible chewing of wires and everything else the whole time. Fortunately, we were able to get an expert, who took care of sealing up all entrances to make sure our home is protected. We’re now proudly rat-free.
  • Loppers. I’ve been borrowing my mom’s off-and-on for the past year to cut vines and prune shrubs and small branches. They’ve gotten a lot of use, so a pair of my own was definitely a need. And after a year of not coming across any in the secondhand shops, yard sales, or Freecycle/Craigslist, it was time to return my mom’s loppers for good.
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To prune all the things

That’s it for January. Unfortunately, writing this up has reminded me that there are still new things needed for other home repairs in the near future. Time to update the list and see which I can get secondhand. *fingers crossed*