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.
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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.

Buy Nothing New Month 2016 completed!

October is over, and with that Buy Nothing New Month has come to a close. I’ve been working towards not buying anything for a couple of years now, so there’s not much difference between this month and any other but it did turn out to be a slow month in goods needed for the house (other than the plants, of course). So without further ado, here are the non-food items that I purchased in October.

Plants

They’re new, but I had an explicit exception at the start of the month because October is the perfect time to plant perennials in central Texas. I have a huge, mostly empty yard now but if I keep getting a handful of perennials each year and learn how to propogate them so they multiply, well, eventually it’ll be full of life and beautiful. My plant finds from the nearby nursery include:

  • two lavender plants
  • a foxtail fern just because they’re so cute
  • a Mexican mint marigold (smells delicious to me, horrible to mosquitoes)
  • a variety of salvia greggi
  • a lemon verbena plant which smells divine but was getting a bit straggly in the clearance section
  • a chile pequin, also straggly-looking, also from the clearance section, probably would have been tossed without my intervention
  • pack of carrot seeds for my mom’s garden

A Mirror

One weekend while browsing Goodwill, my husband and I found a nice mirror with keyhooks to put by our front entryway. I also found what looked like a great light jacket but it turned out to be slightly too large when I tried it on. I don’t really need another light jacket right now, so I returned that one to the racks and will wait to find one I truly love.

Shirts

Not sure if I should even mention this because they’re not only not new, I didn’t even buy them. Anyhow, I stopped by the Really, Really Free Market this month and found a few shirts that I wanted to try out. Two immediately got placed back in the bag to return next time after I got home and tried them on, but I have a couple which are likely winners. If I don’t love them after wearing them once, they’ll also go straight back. I also picked up a couple of random pillowcases to use as wraps for Christmas gifts.

Books

Speaking of Christmas gifts, I arrived at Recycled Reads early for book club this month to search for some second-hand finds to give to family. For most of them, I have no idea what they would really enjoy getting for Christmas, but there’s a common expectation to get something. This trip found me presents for four people for the hefty sum of $4. Some of them may appreciate also getting the cash that I could have spent on something that would wind up in the trash quicker; so for them I’ll be sure to slip in a special bookmark. They might use it to buy new crap, but at least in those cases it’ll be new crap with a higher likelihood of making them happy.

Toilet Paper

I’ve given up on most disposable products but, nope, not this. Does it count as not-new if it’s made from recycled paper? 😛

That’s everything. I’ll have to declare this Buy Nothing New Month a resounding success!

Buy Nothing Day is November 25th

If you missed BNNM and want to participate, don’t feel like it’s a requirement to do so only in October. My first time I missed it and did my own BNN month in November. And even if you’re not interested enough for a whole month, I strongly encourage you to participate in Buy Nothing Day this November 25th (a.k.a. Black Friday).

I have a colleague whose post-Thanksgiving tradition is to stay home, watch the news reports and laugh at the people who get trampled in the Black Friday stampedes when the stores open. Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to laugh at folks who are getting hurt, but I do advocate staying home, staying safe, and avoiding the stress, the crowds, the long lines of Black Friday. What do you say? Do you thrive on shopping or are you ready to give your wallet a break?

Celebrate Buy Nothing Day - November 25, 2016
This year it’s November 25, 2016

 

A Happy Day: Library + RRFM + ZW Food

Sunday I made my regular monthly trip to East Austin for the Really Really Free Market. I dropped off a couple of items I decided not to keep from my last trip and just a couple of other things I no longer needed. Fortunately, most of the crowd had already been through all the bins to find their treasures so I had plenty of space while looking through the tons of clothing to see if there was anything I wanted to salvage.

This month turned into a fairly large haul and I went home with:

  • a new-to-me pair of jeans that fits me properly (finally!)
  • tshirts for Wheatsville and local bakery Easy Tiger (they make delicious pretzels)
  • a polo-style shirt to try out
  • one extra pair of socks to replace the one I’ve just worn big holes in (the socks aren’t exactly the same length but close enough)
  • some lovely fabric for my yo-yo quilt or another project

The Wheatsville shirt is a cotton-poly blend, and I’ve been trying to stick to natural fibers. But, hey, I’ll take it because Wheatsville is awesome!

Unfortunately, this also means I now own 23 shirts! Sounds like this weekend it’ll be time to pick out a few to get down to my limit of 20 and decide whether they end up going to the next free market or recycled into tshirt yarn. It’ll be nice to get back that little bit of free space in the closet again. A few shirts can make a world of difference.

Also this month, I finally realized that in.gredients is only a 15 minute walk away from Chestnut Pocket Park where the RRFM is held, so I wiped off some of the sweat dripping from my face and headed over for some zero waste and local foods. Another dragon fruit, a canary melon, some walnut bread (from Easy Tiger!), dark chocolate discs from the bulk bins, and more. Total success!

Combined with a stop at the library and some engaging reading on the bus, this was my idea of a divine weekend. This’ll definitely be a monthly zero waste tradition for me now that I know how easy (and satisfying!) it is to do both. Sorry for all the exclamation points in this post, but I had a great day and can’t help it. 🙂

The Thrift Life

Thrift – the quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully

Thrift is one of the core principles by which I live my life. I’m not hardcore thrift, but here are a few examples of thriftiness that I do practice.

Socks

When a sock is beyond repair, its partner doesn’t need to be thrown out. Here I paired a lonely sock with one I picked up at the Really, Really Free Market. I may never buy socks again. And as for the holey sock, it may still have some use for the elastic–a hair band or cushy rubber band replacement. Or at worst just a rag.

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(You may also notice the DIY insoles that should help these shoes to last longer.)

T-Shirts

I reuse all my old t-shirts by making them into tshirt yarn and transforming them into rugs, bowls, and more. I’ve even stockpiled extra shirts from the RRFM when I needed more to complete a project.

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Braided Tshirt Rag Rug #3

Buying Bulk

Rice. Lentils. Laundry detergent. Eggs. Spinach. I make the best use of resources by reusing the containers that I already have instead of disposable packaging. (This is a work in progress.)

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Cooking Food

By cooking dried beans or making my own bread, I can avoid both single-use packaging and food waste, plus save money.

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Growing Food From Seed

Getting food right from my backyard? I need to do more of this.

Small carrot fresh-picked in the backyard garden

Library

Want something to read? Something to watch or listen to? Looking for an air-conditioned free place to hang out in the summer? I use my library for all these things.

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Furniture

Furniture shouldn’t be disposable. I buy second-hand and am not afraid to reupholster furniture that I already have to make it last longer.

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Personal Care Products

The deodorant recipe below may not have worked out for me, but a simple deodorant powder works for me just fine. I’ve been doing the baking soda wash and apple cider vinegar rinse as a replacement for conventional shampoo and vinegar. For some products like eye shadow and blush, I’ve found that it’s just as easy to do without.

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And More

These are just a few of many examples of thrift. How does thrift surface in your life?

Sidenote: although “thrift” is in the name, it’s no accident that I didn’t mention thrift shopping. Thrift isn’t about shopping. That’s just a fallback for when I can’t make do without, repurpose something else to fill the need, and can’t or am too lazy to make it myself.

2015 Lookback: A Year of Tshirt Reuse

I went into 2015 excited about attempting to go zero waste and making use of existing resources. January 2015 was my first visit to the Really, Really Free Market to find treasures among piles and piles of unwanted tshirts.

Austin Really Really Free Market

I got home that day with a beach bag stuffed full of tshirts in my favorite colors. As I had started earlier with my own worn out shirts, these also gradually were transformed into tshirt yarn. It was a slow process for me because I wasn’t content to cut off and discard hem, seams, or collar, instead painstakingly removing all the stitches to make full use of the fabric. Once I had an assortment of yarn colors that looked like they might be okay together, I braided them and stitched them round following this braided rag rug tutorial. That first one was fairly small, but I was amazed and proud to have made my very own rug.

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Braided Rag Rug #1

I quickly moved on to another, slightly larger and with different color scheme. Trying for something even more ambitious, I handstitched it so the thread was (mostly) not visible from the front side. It does look a bit better but was a ton of work. The only reason I might try this again in the future would be to use up all my tiny spools of cheap thread in various colors since they aren’t useful for machine-stitching.

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Braided Rag Rug #2

Next up was a twined potholder on a cardboard frame, following the instructions from Bobbie Irwin’s book Twist & Twine from the library. The cardboard frame was a hassle and wasn’t holding up while working on it, so for the second potholder the frame was chopsticks tied to a metal grated tray. Still not perfect, and the pale blue/pink color scheme didn’t provide enough contrast to show off the work I had put into the pattern, but two potholders was plenty.

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Twined Potholders #1 and #2

But by this time I was excited enough to have made a purchase of a set of (not new) crochet hooks online. My enthusiasm waned a little when I opened the grossly excessive packaging they were mailed in, but it was already done. After starting off with some practice crochet on a normal length of thread that I had around, a tshirt yarn crochet bowl was the next item on the agenda. It was so cute that I wanted to make more, but most of my tshirt yarn was already cut too thickly to work well for bowls this small.

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Small Crochet Bowl

Fortunately, I had a larger crochet hook (Size N) as part of the set and was ready to make the big version. My primary goal was to use up many of the smaller pieces of yarn from the arm and chest sections of the shirts and even collars, sewn together into one continuous yarn and then crocheted so that the seams wouldn’t be visible. This basket might not be the prettiest thing in the world, but it works great for storing my fabric yoyos, both completed and in progress.

With these easier crochet experiments complete, it was time to get on with my next rug experiment–the crocheted rag rug. Every tutorial I’ve read says that crocheting in the round is easier for beginners attempting to make rag rugs, but I didn’t believe them. Starting a round and then increasing at the right time is complicated. And I was right! For me at least, making regular turns for a rectangular piece is so much easier than round. This blue beauty is now sitting next to my bed ready to give my feet just a little more cushion in the morning.

Trying to use up some of my plentiful tshirt yarn, I made one final braided rag rug of the year. This is my favorite so far and as you can see from that last picture it’s also the largest. To get an interesting color combination, I used both a couple of standard yarn balls from tshirt bodies and one ball made from various shorter pieces sewn together. This will definitely be my modus operandi for future attempts.

For those of you interested in hopping on the tshirt yarn bandwagon, here are a few tips:

  • Choose 100% cotton tshirts when possible so any random scraps left over can be composted (although almost all shirts have non-compostable polyester stitching).
  • Choose tshirts with a small or no logo. The printed area doesn’t form into yarn like the rest of the shirt, and you’ll have to force it while braiding, crocheting, or twining.
  • Skip the shirts that have a side seam if you have a choice. You want the main body of the shirt to give you as long a continuous smooth yarn as possible.
  • If making a braided rag rug, be very very careful to start stitching in the right direction so the rug will grow away from the sewing machine. I think I got that one wrong every time, ugh!
  • If using a sewing machine, take time to look through the manual and understand as much as possible how it works to prevent any issues. And clean your machine more regularly than I do to keep it in good condition.
  • Don’t be afraid to try again. I learned a lot of things about working with colors from these experiments, and my most recent rag rug is by far my favorite.
  • Crocheting with thick tshirt yarn can be strenuous. Take breaks and don’t expect to do a large project all in one go.
  • If making a round rug, set it down regularly and check for lumps or curling to determine if the next rings need to be tighter or looser respectively. (I’ve so far been too lazy to actually remove any existing stitching to fix it, but that’s probably not a bad idea either.)

All in all, I’ll declare my tshirt reuse plans for 2015 a smashing success! In the future I’d like to try something like Prarie Peasant’s knitted rag rug (I’ve been gifted a knitting set that previously belonged to a relative of my sister’s boyfriend so nothing to buy!) or one of the more complex braided rag rugs that also requires absolutely no sewing. I have a different big project for next year, though, so time to put away all my leftover yarn for when the urge hits again.

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Leftover tshirt yarn balls

Really, Really Free Stuff

Once a month, Treasure City Thrift hosts Austin’s Really, Really Free Market (RRFM) at Chestnut Community Park. Now that I’ve stopped frequenting thrift shops so often (because it’s too tempting to buy crap I don’t need), this is the one time that I can still get my shopping fix. So much stuff, and all for the low low price of free. Anyone and everyone is welcome to come and rummage through crates and crates of clothing to find your treasure.

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Austin Really, Really Free Market

Unlike many thrift shops, Treasure City Thrift is dedicated to zero waste and tries to make the best use of donations, even if that means giving them away free to people who will actually use them. Most of the goods at the Austin RRFM are thrift store donations that didn’t sell, even at their 25¢ sale. So I can feel good that when I find anything I like here and put it to good use I’m actually conserving resources.

This month I kept my haul pretty light but came home with a button-down shirt, a skirt that I may refashion into a shirt, a pair of mixmatched warm socks for the winter weather, yet another cloth napkin, and some interesting pattered cotton fabric for my yoyo quilt.

Things I’ve picked up in the past at the RRFM:

  • A cute onesie and cloth gift bag to present it in to my newborn nephew.
  • Tshirts and button-up shirts that I wear regularly.
  • One pair of jeans I wear regularly and one pair that’s slightly too big and which I only wear on weekends.
  • Underwear and socks. Hey, I washed them!
  • Cloth napkins. These are actually pretty common. If only I had known before I made my own set last year.
  • Lots of tshirts, used as tshirt yarn to make rugs and baskets.
  • Lots of jeans, used to reupholster my ottoman.
  • Pillow cases.
  • Lacy tablecloth for side table.
  • Straw baskets.
  • Patterned cotton fabric for my yoyo quilt.

But honestly, for me the best part isn’t the items that I’ve found here and made use of. The best part is the ease of returning the items that I picked up and ended up not really wanting. The shirt that doesn’t fit quite right. The felt I planned on using for some craft project but later realized I wasn’t that interested. Normally, I’d either have to surpress my shame returning the items to the store or otherwise go out of my way to find another home for them. But with the RRFM, I just set it aside in a bag ready to drop off at my next visit. No questions asked. Getting my shopping fix with absolutely no buyer’s remorse is totally worth dropping by even in the peak of summer heat or on a chilly day like today.