Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

How low can you go – week two

leave a comment »

Friday – nothing

Saturday – rubbermaid tub (bought used for starting a worm composter) – $2.50; 4 books for $9 (The Almanac of Rural Living – 3; Rodale’s Garden Problem Solutions – 3; The Foxfire Book – 2; Last of the Curlews – 1)

Sunday – nothing

Monday – air mattress – $41 (the old one broke, and this is a necessity for nights when I can’t sleep and need to be in the living room)

Tuesday – nothing

Wednesday – packing tape – $4 (needed to pack up box to return old computer to manufacturer for a replacement)

Thursday – 4 books for $11 (The Lacuna – 4, How the Farm Pays – 3; The Trade – 1; a Terry Pratchett for The Boy – 2)

So, this was more or less a week of somewhat unexpected but necessary expenses.  More in the sense that the mattress, as noted, is necessary to my sleep and sanity sometimes, so $41 was well worth it, I think (I got a reasonable quality one this time that I hope will last longer and not lose quite as much air and require so much maintenance).  My computer’s being replaced under warranty, but has to be packaged up in a particular way to ship back, and so I needed to get a roll of packing tape.

The books?  Oops is all I really have here.  I love books, but I very much need to be better about what I buy.  I’m not too bothered by more books on gardening, farming, and sustainable living – they will get used, and I appreciate having them on hand.  The almanac is especially fantastic, based on my intial readings of it, and How the Farm Pays looks great too, especially since it’s a reprint of an 1884 manual and uses older techniques.  The other fiction books, though, are not really so necessary in the strictest of senses.  Kingsolver I love and would have bought new, but held off on until it showed up used (which took somewhere close to a year, as I recall).  The Road is dark, but post-apocalyptic survivalist fiction, which I find helps get me in gear.  The Last of the Curlews…well, that just feeds into my love of reading naturalist fiction, The Trade looked interesting from a Canadian history and wilderness perspective, and I pick up the odd book every now and again for The Boy to read (although I like Pratchett just as much as he does, I think).

The grand total?  $67.50.

I’m not in love with the number, but $41 of that was a new mattress, so I suppose it’s not really all that bad.  And, out of the books, I spent only $8 on non-reference materials (and half of that was on a book that I’ve been waiting quite some time for).  I’m also not sure I’m thrilled with the amount of things – it looks like a lot of stuff when it’s all typed out, especially for one week.  A rubbermaid tub, packing tape, a mattress, and 8 books in just one week is not really that sustainable in this space.  Really, I think that I could be better about spending money, but also about bringing more stuff home, so that’s something to look out for for next week, I think – being mindful of money and of space.

Advertisements

Written by Jenn

April 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm

How low can you go – week one

with 2 comments

In an effort to keep costs down, I’m continuing to track my spending and now I’m reporting it here.  Basically, I’m trying to keep my variable expenses down as much as I can right now to save for next year, when I may not be earning much.  Rent, utilities, and my one recurring research-related subscription will get added in at the end of the month for the grand total.  I’ll have to see if I can keep track of groceries, since The Boy usually pays for those.

In the first week of my how low can you go challenge, I think I did pretty well.

Friday – nothing

Saturday – nothing

Sunday – nothing

Monday – 6 books for $15 (The Road – 2; The Fiery Cross – 2; The Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – 3; A Minnesota Doctor’s Home Remedies for Common and Uncommon Ailments – 2; Blue Covenant – 3; World Hunger: Twelve Myths – 3).

Tuesday – toilet paper for $12.

Wednesday – nothing

Thursday – nothing

Total = $27

Not bad, I suppose.  In all honesty, as I’ve said before I don’t need more books.  I consider this a birthday gift to myself, though, and I appreciate their entertainment value (in the case of the novels) and having them around for reference (home remedies and organic gardening).  Happily, the ones on water and hunger will be reimbursed as part of a research project that I’m working on.  The toilet paper was found cheaper at a local store than where I usually get it, and will last us awhile.

Next week, I’m going to be more vigilant about staying away from the bookstore (and I won’t have a birthday as my excuse).  I need to get a birthday gift for my mom, and pay for a warranty on my computer (expansive, and totally worth it, in my experience), but other than that, I’m still aiming for reducing costs.  I also have a pressing desire to do some spring cleaning, so I imagine that will keep me busy (and hyper-aware of how much stuff I have), as will all the grading I have to do.

Written by Jenn

April 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

The Anyway Project – March

leave a comment »

I’m not sure where March went, and it strikes me that I might not have updated for February, but here I am again with The Anyway Project, and reminding myself that slowly and surely isn’t a bad way to work towards something at all.

Domestic Infrastructure: I’ve added more things to the goodwill pile, to make room for the things that I feel are more important to have for living a more sustainable life, and I’m slowly but surely getting the piles out of here bit by bit.  I’ve rearranged some furniture, and gotten rid of chair that was un-sittable it was so uncomfortable, and made a bit more room in the main living area.

We’ve simplified the kitchen, which has been remarkably helpful.  I’ve gotten rid of a bunch of things that we don’t need, and we’ve put away some others, so we only have enough dishes for a few meals, which makes washing dishes easier and ensures that they don’t pile up as badly anymore.

Next month: Simplify the bedroom and bathroom by getting rid of extraneous clothes and other sundry things.  Get more of the donations out to Goodwill so they’re not taking up space here anymore.  Plan for a move – I have no idea if we will be moving, but acting like we will helps me to decide what to keep, makes me more ruthless, and helps me get into the mindset of moving if we do go through with it.

Household Economy: This month, I was a bit over where I wanted to be.  An extra shopping trip, a gift to my brother, and one larger-than-usual purchase (more on that later) put me a bit over where I wanted to be.  While I’m still living within my means, I’ve been trying to be extra-frugal, which didn’t happen as much as I wanted this month.

As a new computer is winging its way towards me (a replacement, effectively meaning that I just have to pay for the extended warranty and a cable to transfer files, meaning that I will have a new computer far less than I thought), I’ve been considering ways that I can set up and use my computer to bring in a bit more money.  I’m considering summer freelance work, and some more of my own writing, and hopefully finding some ways to make a bit of extra income on the side.

Next month: Cut the budget again (more on this later, but I’m looking to cut down on extraneous spending even further).  Set up the new computer for maximum functionality, and look into open-source or inexpensive programs that will help with either the academic work, some extra freelance or creative work, or come of both.

Also, I need to keep working on academic work.  Finishing the dissertation means I can stop paying tuition, which would be a very good thing.  I’m hoping it will also make it easier to find a job, which would also be a very good thing.  So that’s a priority, as is doing a few other things that will help my academic standing.

Resource Consumption: Happily, with a few more low-watt CFLs and more awareness of the fridge door, we’ve cut down our energy usage by a bit (although we’re still on the warpath, and I think another power bar that can be turned off might be in order).

We’ve been trying to buy foods in less packaging – more bulk, more produce – and I’ve been working on making a set of reusable produce bags.  I’ve also started saving up glass jars – salsa jars appear to be the perfect size for making yogurt in (one of my upcoming projects, I think), so they’re going to be reused.  I’ve also started on the “no ‘poo” hair thing again, so I’m buying less shampoo and conditioner, and using baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead.  They live in the shower in a reused chocolate syrup bottle and a reused soda bottle, respectively.

The purchase that I mentioned above falls in here too.  I bought a used bike trailer that attaches to my existing bike so I can haul things with out the bus, or renting a car.  For $75 it seemed like a reasonable way to try and see if this works for us before investing the big bucks.  If it works well, great.  If it doesn’t, at most I’m out the money, but could probably resell the trailer.  I’m hoping the trailer will fit into the Anyway Project in a few ways.  First, from a resource standpoint, I hope to need less oil and gas.  This should also help the household economy if I can spend less money on the bus (when my bus pass runs out), on car rentals (when I have things to move), or on purchases (if it’s easier to get to places with better quality items, or better prices).  I’m also hoping it will help my health if I wind up biking more.  I also think it will help with getting more local foods – getting to the farmer’s market will be easier, and so will the flour mill, which is bikeable but somewhat far from the bus routes.

Next month: Get used to using the trailer, probably to help remove some of the remaining piles of stuff from the apartment (which will happily also help to make room for the trailer, which is larger than I thought it would be).  Make some more reusable shopping bags.  Research for setting up a worm composter.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence: Still no real industry here, although I have started seeing what I can start / grow inside.  Radishes, peas, spinach, cucumber, dill, and basil have all been started inside.

While it’s still high tech, I’m considering (and pricing) ways that I can set up my computer to create a bit more of a business.  I’m a good writer and editor and, as I mentioned earlier, a bit of freelance work here and there wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and I’m also considering whether there’s anything I can contribute to the growing body of literature on living more sustainably, although that will likely just take on the guise of more blog posts.

Next month: I’d like to plant some more, and hopefully start setting up some containers for gardening outside.

Family and Community: I haven’t done great on community, although I’ve been to more local events on things like climate change and labour issues.

Next month:  More events, hopefully that I can bike to.

Outside Work: I still think the priority needs to be academic work, but as mentioned above, I’m considering some freelance or other work that can be done from home, possibly over the summer, and considering ways that I can maximize the sudden boon of a new computer to help with this.

Next month: Keep on keepin’ on, I guess.

Time and Happiness: I’ve made a lot more time for running and biking recently, which keeps me saner and calmer and healthier, all of which are good things.  The Boy and I have also been experimenting with new recipes together, which is lovely, and going for at least a few long walks a week, which I love.

Neck month: Yet more keep on keepin’ on.  More walks, more biking, more running.  Maybe some meditation.

 

Written by Jenn

March 26, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Prepping

with one comment

I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who’s a prepper.

Someone who’s interested in food security?  Yes.  Someone who wants to grow their own?  Certainly.  Someone who wants to be prepared for an uncertain future?  Absolutely.  But a prepper?  Not really.  I don’t have anything against it, it just never really crossed my mind.

Until this week, that is.

Now, although I’ve never thought of myself as a prepper, I’ve read about prepping, and thought about prepping, and wondered if, really, I should be doing something more along the lines of prepping and getting together some stockpiles and basic tools and things for which there might be a need somewhere down the line.

I was at the thrift store this week, and I stumbled across rather a lot of inexpensive hurricane candles (likely because they are in a shade called “lemon” which, yes, is a well and truly awful bright yellow).  They worked out to $1 for a box of six.  I bought seven bags with four boxes in each for a grand total of 168 candles for $28.  For another $5 each I also got two brass-with-glass-chimney hurricane lanterns.

They’re not the ideal solution for every issue (this is why I also have lanterns and lamp oil as well, although I should stock up on wicks, and I have my eye on a hand-cranked LED lantern), but I now know I have a supply of emergency candles with solid holders to use if something does happen and the power goes out.

I also picked up an extra pair of sturdy shoes (since apparently one of my great fears in life is not being able to find or replace solid, comfortable, fairly long-wearing footwear, which could at least partially explain my current five pairs of Doc Martens), two pizza pans, and a large binder in which to store my paper collection of things-that-I-might-need-to-know-and-have-on-hand.

Of course, now that I’ve started, I’m thinking about it more, and there’s a lot that I still want to do – so much so that thinking about it all makes me a bit nervous in terms of cost, time, and the idea of either storing stuff (which I’m working on), or finding a way to move it if I have to move at some point.  More on this later, though.  For now, things are a bit busy, so I won’t be getting to it all right away, but I’m considering ways in which I can relatively easily start to improve my current and future situation a bit more.  Of course, suggestions are always welcome as well.

Written by Jenn

March 25, 2011 at 4:18 am

February shopping and spending

leave a comment »

It’s time yet again for more confessional fun at the end of the month.

Despite being well under budget this month, I’m still not happy with my shopping and spending.

I did well on my plans for TGAAD.  In terms of clothing I bought only a secondhand suit, an item that was on my exceptions list.  However, I did run into some problem areas that are really noticeable now that I’m looking back on what I spent, how much, and on what.  The two big problem areas for me seem to be housewares and books.  Housewares I tend to justify in terms of making home function better and be a more pleasant place to be, since this is where I spend much of my time.  Books, I tend to explain away either as an inexpensive form of entertainment, or as reference materials that I would like to have around, and this month, I got both.

This month, I spent $59 in my play category (the budget is $50) and $52 in my sustainability category (from a budget of $20).  Clearly, the amounts spent were higher than those budgeted for.  I was aware of this as I was going through the month, and knew that I would be saving more than enough money in other categories to cover it, but it’s still not sitting all that well with me.

One of the things I wanted to avoid with TGAAD was spending money in other places instead of for clothes.  I’m not sure that’s quite what I’m doing here, but it might be.  Although I am pleased with what I got and stuck to things that had been on my list for ages and was planning on buying new soon anyway, I don’t want to get into the habit of overspending in my set categories, even if it just means moving money that’s already built into the budget around to compensate.  Part of the point is to consume and have less, period.

So, I’m trying something new for February.

Part of what I don’t like about shopping is that I buy substitutes.  There are certain books that I want, for example.  If I see one used that’s inexpensive and on the same topic, but not the exact one that I wanted, I tend get it anyway.  Eventually, I’m likely to get the one that I want as well, which is a waste of money, as well as a waste of space if I don’t get rid of the first one.

So now, I’m going to focus on getting exactly what I want.  The cost of buying a few books that are kind of what I want could cover, or at least go a long way towards getting a book I really want.  So, this February, I’m making a deal with myself.  No shopping other than the necessities.  At the end, if I stick to it, I get this:

I very much want this.  I love his work, love reading his books, looking at the pictures, watching the shows.  It’s somewhat pricy, even after the discount.  But all the $3 and $4 secondhand cookbooks in the world won’t be this one.  So, rather than buy them, I’m going to get this one, and I will enjoy the living heck out of it.

This will take up much of my combined budget for play and for sustainability.  In fact, if I attend the workshop on starting seeds that I want to go to this month ($30) I could be a bit over (although I do have some gift certificates).  But I will be less over budget – if I’m over at all – than I was this month.  I’ll have the book that I most want.  And I’ll only have one new book to fit onto the shelf, rather than a pile plus a few new housewares too.

Written by Jenn

January 31, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Full disclosure

leave a comment »

In the interest of full disclosure, on my first full day of TGAAD, I shopped.  Not for clothes – I’m good there – but I happened to be by the used bookstore today.  And they happened to have “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire“, both of which I’ve been wanting to read (and have checked the used bookstore for no less than 12 times).  So, they came home with me, along with a copy of “Trees: The Green Testament” and “The Poems of Tennyson” (I love me some graphic novels and some Arthurian-themed poetry).  $12 for the lot.

Also, in order to get my Christmas gift order of one CD up to the free shipping amount, I finally ordered “Alabama Studio Style” which has been sitting in my cart since before it was released, (I did use gift cards entirely for that, so I’m actually not out any money).  Not a necessity, but I appreciate the focus on homemade things, sustainability, storytelling, local food, and tradition, not to mention the fact that this one has the dress and tank top patterns that I’ve been coveting.

So, more books.  And more shopping, I suppose.  This should be the last for awhile, though, since the two earlier books were the last stragglers on my wish list (although I will likely have to keep my eye open for the third, and it strikes me that I have more gift certificates, and that Ashley English’s books on chickens and preserving have been in the queue for a long time as well).  I’m trying not to be too hard on myself over this, especially on the first day of the diet, and seem to be succeeding.  I’m also trying not to focus too much on supplanting clothes shopping with other forms of shopping either, justified or not, especially with books.  That said, there will be a new focus on reading what I have around here, and I’m still hoping that TGAAD will help change my rleationship to shopping in general, and not just with clothes.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The Great American Apparel Diet

leave a comment »

I found out about TGAAD a few months back, but it didn’t really cross my mind to jump on board. Then, a few days ago, I was thinking about the New Year and resolutions (in the loosest sense) – wanting more time for the important things, thinking about getting my finances tightened up even more, and trying to declutter further – and it hit me that now would be a good time to get on board.  And, after a month of not shopping, this felt at least reasonably do-able as a project, and it seemed to fit well with my hope for a low shopping year. So, no new clothes (or new-to-me used clothes) until the end of August, 2011.

I don’t really spend a lot, mostly because I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. But as a grad student, I’d rather be saving than spending, and given how little I currently make, it’s still a higher percentage of my budget than I’d like. Because thrift stores are cheap, I also have a lot of clothing – nice, good quality clothing, but certainly enough, and probably more than I need – and I could use the room. Finally, I spend more time shopping than I would prefer, looking for just the right things at just the right price.

So, for TGAAD my goals are four-fold. Spend less. Bring fewer things home. Have more time for the important stuff. Get creative with what I have (and get rid of what just isn’t working). Pretty simple, I hope.

When I was considering joining, I found myself nervous. Could I really do this? (As a side note, I think the fact that it felt so monumental at the time is probably a sign that this is a good thing to be doing.) Now? I feel excited – not just as though a big decision has been made, but also as though many months of small ones have too. For the next eight months and change there are no more decisions about shopping or not, buying or not, or even just what to get. It feels freeing, which is a pleasant surprise.

Right now, I’m considering whether I need to plan out an exception or two.  A suit for job interviews is at the top of that list, and my pj pants are about to go, I think (although there’s some lovely flannel and a sewing machine in the closet that could probably make short work of that particular need).

The only other question left, I think, is whether I try to further extend this diet to other elements of my shopping which, while also not hugely indulgent, add to the time, the expense, and the clutter of shopping (books and housewares, I’m looking at you).  While TGAAD is focused largely on clothes, I’m hoping that my perspective not only shifts with respect to this kind of shoppng, but also transfers to other elements as well.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 8:51 am