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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Odds and Ends--Loose Threads

Okay, there is no focus here.

I found two more dictionaries on my shelves. My parsimonious side knows that someone will love having a dictionary that is free. My practical side tells me I cannot find all these people who need free books. However, donating this to a thrift store that uses all the proceeds for a food bank will satisfy my need to help someone save money, avoid using my resources to find that person, and help the food bank at the same time. That said, I have another load of books and household items ready for the thrift store.

Only one egg today. What is with them? The heat? I made them forage too much and did not supply enough vegetable scraps? Protein was served to them. Okay, I am going with--oppressive heat. Anyway, ever so often, I have a skimpy egg day from them. Considering they have given me four eggs a day for weeks, the girls deserve a rest.

Hungry Children
I want to go look for them. But, that just sounds creepy. Right? I can give them the jelly and bread I forgot last night.

Canning jars
My friend gave me the jars a guy bought for me from a yard sale. I have washed and consolidated my own. The new jars from last year, never used, are at the ready. Yet, I am compelled to buy more jars. This year, I plan to can things like pecans, something I did not know was possible. Canning food is more practical than freezing. My freezer stays so full of meat and other items gotten on sale (almost free) that I really cannot add other items to my list of food to freeze.

Fruit flies
Where do they come from? They are dead in the freezer, dead in the refrigerator/under the door of the refrigerator, dead everywhere. So few are still alive. Now is the time to employ the vacuum, my favorite way of eradicating them! Chasing and trapping just does not work for me, ever. Fruit flies are so tiny that the hose of the vacuum can suck them in quite easily. Anyone else ever try this?

Things I really, really want!
Bike, dehydrator, pressure canner, henhouse

Did you notice these are all rather big-ticket items? I won't bother explaining why I want these as it is quite evident from the nature of their use.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Feeding stray children in the middle of the night

Last night--

The boys were hungry and wanted money to put in the laundromat junk food machines. No way.

A huge load of nasty towels have been waiting here, ready for me to transport them to the laundry. In the room where rain comes in, well, one of the rooms where rain comes in, I had put towels down. They dried on the line but needed to be washed. I HATE THE LAUNDROMAT!!!! After checking out the newer laundry, I got change at a gas station in case the changer did not work. When I came back, there was a crowd in the formerly deserted laundry--all young people. My nerves were on edge, and I had to keep telling myself they were not looking for trouble. I took my chances.


When I walked in, one of the boys called me by name. It turns out I had substituted for most of the 3 boys and five girls.

We talked. The girls told me tales of having a baby, being in Florida and the mother and three daughters riding with a trucker through eight states to get from Florida to Alabama and away from abuse, missing 28 days of school, turning in a Dad for snorting, mothers not getting child support, teachers leaving bruises....get the picture? And it is almost 2:00 A.M....that is morning, not afternoon.

As I gathered my towels to bring home and dry, the oldest boy, tallest boy, and the only black child came over and said, "Let me have a hug." Without reservation, I did. As he hugged me he asked for money. "What for." "Food." "Where?"He was going to buy food from the snack machines, said he was hungry and "staying" in a trailer with  the friend and no food and no adults and no money.

Rats, now what should I do? I hate these situations. Are they pulling my leg, just trying to get money for snacks? It is not my job to determine that! So, I pulled out two one-dollar bills. I rethought it and told him I would go get him something. So, all 8 teens were going to get in my car. Thankfully, my car was full of stuff and would not hold another person, much less eight more.

They asked if I were going to get them a hamburger. Hmmmm....the adult in me thought--Walmart seems like the place to get real food. (They told me they did not eat vegetables or much fruit.)  However, I decided to go home and get food from my house. I gathered what I had:

2 little 6-inch pizzas I had made (heated)
1/2 gallon milk
4 fresh eggs
Jiffy cornbread box mix
instant pudding
peanut butter
instant oatmeal packets
8 disposable cups
dozen assorted plastic forks, knives, and spoons
1/2 gallon cherry/apple juice
can of fruit cocktail

Only the milk, eggs, jello, and pudding are something I will eat. The other is here for assorted reasons. The cups are about five years old and free when I got them.

All the vegetables I could have given them were left here. Maybe I should have taken a can of corn. Kids like corn. So do cats, and dogs, and chickens! Too late. Well, I tried to take things kids will eat, not what I think they should eat. It was mostly nutritious. I could have given them my grapes, but I had no bananas to offer.

The boys were so funny, and told me they could not cook when they saw what I brought. I assured them that the things I gave them could not be considered cooking. "Just read the directions." One said he did not know how to cook eggs. "Well, I am confident you can learn easily." He readily agreed with me. One of girls said she would teach him. Another guy said, "Don't we need butter to cook eggs? Did you bring butter?" Actually, I thought about it and forgot. I forgot the bread, too. And the jelly!

The boys looked really happy to get all I gave them and decided to leave with it immediately! No one looked disappointed. So, maybe they really needed food. I still have my money. I honestly think they went to eat.

I arrived home after 3 A.M. Why are seventh grade girls allowed to be out at this time of the night? The police came by while I was there and told them not to get into any trouble, twice!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting it Free from Office Max or Staples or Office Depot

Last Christmas, I wanted a new camera since my old camera somehow drained the batteries. Within a few hours of installing batteries, the batteries were dead! DEAD! Yes, I bought new AA rechargeable batteries AND a new charger, so it was not the batteries or charger. I had recycled enough ink cartridges at Office Max before the end of December to get the camera ($189 on sale for $79) for $22. I like those kinds of bargains. I waited until January 20, 2010 to buy my camera. I knew that by waiting, the camera would be almost free, so I was not feeling sorry for my adult self, not getting the camera right at Christmas.

Now, I have my eyes on getting free or almost free items. They changed the rules. Now, the rules are not at all user-friendly. You can look them up yourself on OM website. My daughter's birthday was July 6, so I acquired for her a digital picture frame for free. My next project is getting a digital camera for my granddaughter and paying little for it.

School supplies are on sale at OM, so I have spent the rest of my "free money" on buying school supplies for my grandchildren. Most school supplies are on sale so cheaply here in the South, that I can buy and mail to New York City more cheaply than she can buy supplies. Besides, she is a single working mother with little time for what I do for her. The postage is $10 on the large box from the Post Office. In the intial box I will send all the crayons and markers my granddaughter's needs in elementary school and lead for my high-school-age grandson's mechanical pencil. Plus, I bought mechanical pencils in bulk for both of them since they lose them during the year. Only a few packs of paper and other things bought in bulk will go into the first box along with all the crayons, scissors, and markers, sort of a starter box for school.

Up until the purchase of the mechanical pencils, most of their supplies were too cheap to pass up, considering my daughter would spend even more than the postage and sale-priced supplies to purchase the same amount of supplies in NYC.

Besides, my granddaughter exclaimed when she saw the box of supplies last year, "Memaw is the best." That keeps me buying. Well, not

Forty-eight packs of notebook paper are stacked here, ready to go. I will only send two or three in the first box. Then, I will include a several packs in the boxes of items I send throughout the year.

Since there is no reason to purchase at full price, EVER, if items are on sale, I take full advantage of their promotions in conjunction with recycling=free items. This year, I have purchased dirt-cheap items at Walmart, KMart, CVS, and Office Max. I have until the end of August to get her final box in the mail.

My daughter's friends at work were amazed at what I paid for school supplies last year. Of course, I buy only Crayola markers, crayons, pencil, high-lighters, and whatever she needs that Crayola makes.

Prices rose drastically from last year to this! Notebook paper last year at OM was one cent for 150 sheets. Notebook paper this year is twenty cents for 100 sheets. Hmmmm....well, I still get a bargain. Rulers were a penny last year and are now a nickel. I bought a dozen wooden rulers as a hedge against next year's price! Not really!

If you have not tried shopping for school supplies at Office Max, consider doing so. By purchasing enough notebook paper, pencils, and crayons for school and home for the WHOLE year, you will be saving money. Don't you just love the smell of Crayola crayons and the memories evoked?

One caveat--at OM you must purchase the same amount of merchandise to get the free merchandise with recycling. The only reason I am going ahead and recycling for the time being is that I had to purchase Microsoft Office 2010 for my new laptop, so there is plenty of "spent" money in my OM recycling account.

Staples and Office Depot have no such stipulation. Office Depot has really good sales on school supplies. I am not sure about Staples.  All three have websites where you can view the weekly ads for your area.

As for my future recycling, I may just go to the other two stores to recycle from now on since I don't want to HAVE to purchase to get perks (free stuff) for recyling! Do you hear that OM?

Of course, my daughter must send paper goods for the classroom, so I send coupons for baby wipes and paper products like paper towels and tissues.

In the early 1950s, I went to the first day of school each year with two pencils, pad or notebook paper, a notebook, a box of eight crayons and was well-prepared to learn. My mother did not have to send 36 pencils and 10 notebooks the first day like my daughter must. I'm not sure how we made it through the school day without baby wipes and paper towels from home! My parents could never have afforded to send five children to school!

Are you appalled at what children must bring to school within the first several days? Is it a drain on the budget? My daughter said it took $75 to get her daughter's supplies for the second grade!

Update: I still own the first mechanical pencil I ever owned. It lasted through high school and into college when I finally just quit using it. Santa brought it to me when I was eight-years-old. Why is it that I can keep a mechanical pencil for 55 years, and kids today lose or break them every week or so? Okay, maybe mechanical pencils were made better then. That still does not explain ALL the breakage and none of the losses!

Okay, my brother and sister got one the same year and their refillable mechanical pencil and they did not have theirs after a few months!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Purging--Rules and a Method to My Madness

Before I start, I must tell you of my decades-long history with books. Okay, I will give the short version. I have loved books since I was a toddler. I remember my desire to get another book, wanting to hold onto them, and have my mother read them to me repeatedly. Eventually, they were all destroyed by the next four children in the family.

When I was eleven, I wanted a bookcase. My mother bought one at Goodwill, and I put my half dozen books there. The bookcase went with me to college, holding weighty tomes. Now, it sits in my home, having been with me for over fifty years.

Right now I have seven bookcases, all stuffed with books. Some books are behind others, flat against the back of the bookcase. Others lie on top of rows of books. It is okay that some of my books are in small or large stacks elsewhere and not in the bookcase.

That was my attitude until recently—books could live anywhere. But, due to having to remove things from other rooms into rooms housing bookcases and stacks of books, I decided to see exactly what I really NEEDED to keep and what I WANTED to keep. Looking with a critical eye was necessary.

For many years I have bought interesting looking books at yard sales and thrift stores. Since I joined The Compact and heard of this method, I had been ridding my house of ten items a day, I thought that I could see the difference eventually. (Okay, I lie. I purge for a month and skip three months.) Nope! Not happening! I devised my own plan to help me de-clutter. My question to myself: what can I do and see the most difference. Instead of just randomly choosing ten items a day, I chose to get rid of ten books a day for a week. None are put in my trash. All are given to individuals or a thrift store. I trust none will go into the trash when I donate.

I have kept books bought when I was attending universities, acquiring two B.A.s, one in English and another in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Then, I worked on the M.A. in English and finished my masters in education, M.Ed. Since I love to read and investigate most areas, I bought extensively from the colleges’ bookstores during these years.

Yard sales are a rich source of cheap books. So, I indulged. Library sales draw me in and I can barely walk out because of books buy. Then, there are the all too familiar caches of free books, often at the end of regular sales.

You must realize I have lots of books! I counted years ago and I had over 1000. Considering what I am finding during this purge, I suppose I had over 2,000 books.

Okay, now to how I made decisions. If anyone else had done this for me, they would have made entirely different decisions. Anyone else doing this for me would have kept ALL classics, regardless of condition. Many classics are gone.

I realized I was never going to get around to the autobiographies of old movie stars. They all went. However, I kept my rare copies of Hollywood Babylon.

I had owned my copy of Lord of the Flies since I was a teen. Some books were disintegrating because of age. They went. Anything replaceable that was hazardous to my health had to go bye, bye. Bye, Bye, Lord of the Flies.

What do I have that I can find again? What do I have that is not likely available? I kept Rats, Flies, Lice, and History and got rid of Hamlet. Okay, I know that seems insane. But, consider this—where will I ever find the gross-sounding book and how easily can I find a copy of Hamlet? Besides, I consider the former to be research material. Most of my classics in paperback are gone. I kept Word Origins and a dictionary of synonyms and got rid of Bret Hart.

What is the condition of the book? Any paperback that was a classic and 50 years old was just sitting there, happily making book dust. My allergies do not appreciate these books’ subversive activities. Torn backs or ratty books don’t necessarily make the cut and leave me. Makers of dust leave.

What am I not likely to read? I am not likely to read anything making dust. I am not likely to read Gloria Gaither’s book, never opened, never read, never blemished. And, the dust cover is in pristine condition. I bought it used to give away. I did not! Why? I don’t know.

Was the book a textbook? This is a thorny question. If it were for English classes, TESOL, or Sociology, I keep it. If the text is for history, math, or computer science, the book cannot live here any longer.

Is this dictionary relevant today? Well, probably not, since it is seventy-five years old. These old dictionaries were invaluable to me since I often compared them to modern dictionaries. Sadly, I release all but two of my dictionaries. My 1902 copy of the almanac goes away. While it may be relevant to someone, it’s not relevant to me.

Does this book serve any purpose? While I believe the answer is “yes” to all books, I am thinking of particular books. I buy at yard sales multiple copies of things like Night and The Pearl so that I can share with others. My grandson in high school can benefit from these. NO MORE. I am just giving up temporarily on the idea of buying for others. When all is settled, I can look for particular books he needs.

One exception to any rule—was it a copy of a book that I used for a class and made notes on the pages? Okay, Walden stays, along with all the other class copies of classics with class notes.

Another exception to the rule—anything that was bought for a class and is not a textbook is kept. Here, I am thinking of The Awakening and Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll stays. It just does!

For seven weeks I have gotten rid of 10 books per day. Maybe, I am a third of the way through, just maybe. In order to finish the job I may ramp this purge up to 20 per day. Just devoting one day to books is another idea I have had since this third week came screeching to a halt.

Week 8 starts with 10 books a day, banished from the house.

This purging is a revolutionary act for me. Friends cannot believe I am getting rid of one book, much less hundreds. Really, they all outlived their purpose in my life or threaten my allergies. It is a relief to finally see books I bought at least three years ago that never even came out of the bag once I came home. I forgot about these.

There are about six gems that will fetch money from antiquarian book dealers. Actually, that is why I purchased them. I had no intention of reading these. Purging will be profitable on many levels. I give to individuals. I donate to charity. I rid my house of dust-makers. I will make a bit of profit!

My love of books has not diminished. My choice of what to keep has changed. I have looked with a properly critical eye and bid some cherished books “goodbye.” I have no regrets.

Update: My daughter called and said my grandson needs two books I took to the thrift store two weeks ago. No, they are gone and I cannot repurchase them! Isn’t that the way it always happens?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's so hot that....

my chickens refuse to scratch. They just follow me around squawking this mournful "bwaahck, bwaahck." From their voices, I can tell they are miserable and do not have on their happy faces. These hens are not happy girls.  It makes me feel helpless. They just refuse to scratch because of the heat. My spoiled hens want me to find the food. So, I did. I went to the market and got four free cantaloupes that were in the trash. After they have been in the yard for an hour, I will pen them up and give them a cantaloupe.

Whether they are complaining or walking silently, their beaks hang open. They walk slowly. Some of their feathers are hanging from various places on their bodies. Their tongues are moving back and forth. They never run or jump as they usually do. Since the heat index has been over 100 this afternoon, I understand.

I commented to a friend who was here today that maybe I should put in ac for them next year. A fan, at the very least, would make them more comfortable. Well, they don't have a house yet! There's not much place to put a fan.

They did give me four eggs today. Two were actually on the nest at once, both little beaks open and panting hard. That must have been really hot! They seem to have chosen one nest of two nests as the ONLY place for all four to lay. One day, there were three hens laying at once!

Since it has been so hot, I expected the egg laying would drop off a bit. As long as they get plenty of protein and water, they seem to lay well in extreme heat and extreme cold. Yesterday, they had two baked chicken leg and thigh quarters. This morning, they had another leg and thigh quarter. Of course, they gulp down fresh water and quit complaing when I refill their bowl. Tomorrow, they get a chunk of ice in the water.

The heat index was over 100 today, and it's 99 right now at 6:30. All four will crowd into one 18 gallon Rubbermaid-type box! When I was out last night at TOPS, people were talking about hens dropping dead in the heat. So, I approach them in fear and count--1--2--3--4--and breathe a sigh of relief.

For those who have chickens, are yours suffering from the heat? What are you doing to relieve their suffering them and keep them cool?

Being a chickie Mama is hard.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Free Fruit

Getting free fruit or any free vegetables is just one of my very favorite things to do. Today, I gathered 30 lbs of free pears. Don't ask me what kind they are. When I looked at pictures of pears on the internet, these were labeled "old fashioned hard pears." I guess that kind of says it all. I have repeated this name to older folk who who nod their head as if that is the right name for them.

Last year, I gathered 150 lbs of pears. Not one passed through my lips! I hate pears of any kind except canned. Yes, it is weird. No, I don't can pears!

My four hens love pears. Spending no money for chicken food is my goal, so these pears are right up my alley.

I also share pears with all my friends. I kept about 50 lbs in the refrigerator for six months. No, I don't have a large refrigerator. Pears dominated my life for a few months! They never spoiled. They never ripened. They never shriveled or dried out. They sat there! My friend to whom I had sent ten pounds said she put them in a bowl on the table, and they all waited for them to ripen. Once ripe, the pears were delicious, or so I was told. Altogether, she and her family had been the recipient of about 40 lbs of pears, sent in small amounts over six months.

My pear goal is 200 lbs this year. I will have them sitting all over the house in tubs, bags, and boxes. Since they have the tendency to go bad and ooze juice onto the floor, all will be in containers that will not leak. That sort of leaves out bags and boxes.

Now, I am spreading the word that I will glean. Even rotten fruits or vegetables are fine for the hens. As a matter of fact, the more pungent, the better they seem to like it. They are probably looking on their good luck with rotten fruit as a sort of hard cider experience. I can write a post about "My Drunk Hens."

Two years ago, I purchased a fruit picker. It allows me to reach 17' from the ground. It has a little basket on a pole with prongs above the basket to allow me to pull the fruit into the basket. The pole comes apart into two pieces. When I find the cord to my camera, I will post a picture.

Unfortunately, the first year I had my picker, it was used little. Then, last fall, I used it lots. Eventually, I ended up with a "frozen shoulder." That pain and stiffness had to be worked out over about six months. This time, I hope I will be smarter and take care not to let the shoulder become stiff. Who wants to massage my shoulder?

When I pick pears with my picker, I use canvas bags to hold the pears and to transport them home. I must remember to take more canvas bags and not fill them to overflowing. It hurts my hands and back to carry these to the car and into the house. My little red wagon is used to bring the pears from car to door.  But, I still must carry them up the steps!

"My" pear tree is being hosted by someone else, just like "my" pecan trees. Anyone can get the pears, but since I don't want to give anyone ideas, I try to go when there is little traffic. I do have permission!

Since I am losing weight and going to TOPS, I will make less pear preserves and more pear sauce (like applesauce) from my bounty.

Does anyone have access to free fruit? What kind? Does anyone have one of these fruit pickers like I have?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without, tip #1

I have heard this saying all my life. Sometimes, the admonition was one of the four aspects, as in the almost empty shampoo bottle--"use it up."

Make it do

Over the years, I have owned several white spatulas that I used for scraping the mixing bowl to remove all the cake mix or mashed potatoes or whatever, getting every last bit in order not to waste anything. In order to clean more food from dishes, I used the spatula.  Then, someone decided it would be a good idea to use my white, curved spatula in a skillet. You know the rest of this story....

No more spatula for me. There was never a replacement offered. By the way, this torture of my tools happened way before the spatulas of today that can deal with a skillet. Misuse and lack of caring was the only reason behind destruction of my stuff....okay, Linda, take a deep breath and continue the post!

Yes, I know they make "rubber" spatulas that can withstand skillet cooking heat. But, mine were not that kind. I now have one.

You have heard it said that "necessity is the mother of invention." I don't know if this would quality as an invention, but it worked in a pinch.

Of course, the rubber spatulas wear out. One day, I was spatuless and needed one.

Just take a lid that you are going to throw out or that is not needed. DON'T use the Tupperware unless you have just given up on using the stuff. Take a knife of your choice or any cutting instrument, scissors or razor, and fashion a new spatula for scraping.

You will not have a real handle. It won't work for mayonaisse jars. However, it will scrape a bowl or plate. Just cut the lid in half and use the round side to scrape. Or, if the plastic is sturdy, cut it with a wide "handle" that is short and has a curved edge. The handle is not to use as a handle.  It is just to have plastic extending into the palm of the hand for easier handling. The first shape I made was not handy at all because the plastic was thin. I used it with difficulty. It did the job. The next time, either the plastic or the design was better.

The whole lid can be used without cutting. Usually, there is a lip on the lid that won't be as easily cleaned. Just use it however it works best for you. Maybe you can just cut off the lip that slips onto the package. Consider the lids from round oatmeal cannisters. These are just the right size for the hand. Cut off the rim and you have a utensil to scrap every bit of food from a bowl or plate.

I usually use these only in a pinch. Maybe the two bought spatulas I have now are dirty. Then, I grab this one from the drawer or cut a new scraper. The first time I cut one of these from a lid, someone had just destroyed my last spatula! Since I wanted a certain kind for a replacement and was unwilling to buy something I did not really want, a lid looked perfect to me.

Hold the lid with the thumb on one side and fingers on the back. Use the position to push with the fingers to curl the lid around the thumb slightly. The curve/curl makes the side stronger.

Except for scraping jars, I could easily use one of these forever.

Has anyone tried this? How do you like it for a "make do?"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Indian Meal Moth--getting rid of them the cheap way


After a two-week stay at a friend's home, I have been battling Indian Meal Moths that hitchhiked home with me. I have put out a product called Pantry Pest Trap that uses a sex attractant to lure the male moth. It works. I can highly recommend the Pantry Pest Trap that I found at Lowe's. However, two of the traps cost $6. I have bought 3 packages for a total of $18. By accident, I found a cheaper solution.

I am all for cheap if it works. Neither of these two bought solutions has a poison, so the difference is in the price.

In the meantime--

A newer pest has arrived. Common house flies. I was going nuts because I will not abide them flying about my kitchen. It seems I spent most of my time swatting flies, cleaning up where I swatted them, covering food I was preparing so no fly could land on it.

Finally, I did something I thought I would never do--bought Victor Fly Catcher--strips that hang. I paid $1 for four strips at Lowe's and am using only one. This is really nasty looking with flies stuck to it. Only lazy people have flypaper, I thought!

Actually, I have been places where flies crawled all over the food. Those people had numerous strips of flypaper hanging around the room. I never eat food in this type home!

In the meantime I am like a crazy woman, stalking flies in my kitchen. If they get cool and land on a window or anywhere, I vacuum them. That is a good feeling, sucking up a fly that will die from the air drying it out...oh. so. cruel. And, I really don't care!

Since there was always one fly I could not swat, I decided on flypaper/strips. Even if I killed the last one, another appeared in a few hours. My torture-by-fly just continued, unabated. Hey, I am talking about me being tortured by the presence of flies.

Finally, the place the flies were coming in has been located and plugged up for good. But, it's summer and the fly paper will stay.

If you have never seen flypaper or fly strips, you have missed nothing. They are long strips of sticky brown paper that hang in your space. Their sole purpose is to trap flies that land on them. A hanging strip with hundreds of dead flies stuck to it.

Since I did not want anyone to see this, I hung the strip between the refrigerator and a cabinet. Every few days I check it. It suddenly occurred to me the strip was catching fruit flies and Indian Meal Moths. Not one house fly has been caught. Okay, I can deal with anything being caught, especially the moths.

As I look at the $6 traps ($3 apiece) and a quarter strip from a $1 pack of four, I think $.25 is better than $3! Both catch the same amount of insects.

While I will not quit buying the sex-lure moth trap, I will supplement the trap with the cheap flypaper strip.

This has been a most embarrassing post to write, admitting I would put a fly strip in my home. To me it smacks of laziness and filth...oh well.

Has anyone tried the fly paper for anything but flies?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How To Tell If A Hen Is Laying

After all, you cannot go check and see who makes eggs each day. This is an easy little test. Look at the hen's legs. The hen whose legs are yellow is NOT laying. When a new flock of hens starts laying, some mature and lay sooner than others. The hens laying will have silvery-greenish-grayish legs. These legs are pretty horrifying when you first see them. Chickens are supposed to have yellow feet and legs! Right?

As hens get older and quit laying or quit laying for any reason, their leg color becomes yellow once again. If you don't want to feed hard-bought food to a non-laying hen, just look at the feet.

Another one of life's little mysteries solved!

This physical trait of hens can save you money. If you don't want to feed a hen who is not producing, you can cull the flock by looking at legs. You will save money on feed or get other hens to produce eggs. Culling non-producing hens is parsimony at its finest.

Since I only have four hens, I doubt if I will cull any of them unless I really need to stew a hen for food. If I had a larger flock, I would have the non-layers for dinner. I have no qualms about eating food animals I raise.

Fancy is the only hen who lives here at the present that I would not eat. I love all four of them, but she is special. She loves me. Okay, maybe the others love me, too, but their place is not as secure.

Could you eat your hens or other cattle/animals you raise? Why not?

Friday, July 16, 2010

My first follower, computer/blogger problems solved parsimoniously

I feel like a big girl now. I am validated! My first follower just joined. WOW! I am a real blogger!

Okay, I am over the ecstasy, almost.

When I started my blog a few days ago, I hesitantly worked my way through joining, posting, editing, and was always just a bit confused. Now, I realize part of my computer's "brain" was missing. Well, let's just say that was my diagnosis!

Since shortly after I acquired this computer in November 2009, I have known something was wrong, terribly wrong. However, since my computer friend was not coming through with his promise to help me, I was loathe to spend money taking it to a computer repair shop. Actually, I did not and do not have the $100 it would cost to have them fix my problem. Here is where my parsimony comes in when coupled with lack of funds.

There are people who would just find $100 to spend on the computer. Well, I refuse to squander what money I have or go in debt when I will have trouble paying the debt.

Another time two years ago, I needed to make a PowerPoint presentation for a graduate class that was about technology in the classroom. Making a PP presentation was not the problem. Making it interactive was a problem.

From a student organization at a college I found a young man willing to help me. While I thought he would take money, just not too much, he helped me for nothing in return. I gave him some food, bananas, I think, and something else. You see, the director said that she kept a food bank for students on campus. All I gave him was for him to keep.

Yesterday, the same young man helped me over the phone. And, with literally a single click and a double click, directed by him,  my computer is fine.

WOW! I didn't even know that I had put color on my blog. The color charts were all just little blank boxes. I chose a very ugly template because there was no color on any of the templates. There is now a little tool bar above this piece I am composing so that I can customize the information with bold, italics, etc. You see where I am going? There was practically nothing showing on the blog dashboard. Now, hopefully, I can find the buttons to add pictures in the right places.

All the other blogs I followed appeared in black and white, so I was thrilled to see color on those, too. It is like I found color for the first time! It's really a wonder I got a blog up and running at all.

Since I try to pay for what I get when I can, I will contribute food to this young man who helped me. If he wants money when he helps me again today, I am sure it will be somewhere within my means. Otherwise, I will give him a grocery bag of food. If he will not accept anything, I will donate it to the food bank for students on campus. This kind of payment is within my power!

Tell me about parsimony in your life. Do you use currency other than cash to pay for work that would have cost you dearly at a retail establishment?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I"m gonna scrub that egg right out of my pan!

Okay, so it is not as simple as that. Yesterday, I decided to cook a ten-pound bag of chicken quarters, bought on sale. Simple enough until I realized I did not have the bags to cook in the oven. Yes, I know you think I enjoy doing everything the difficult way to save money. Somehow, those bags are justified in my mind.

Yes, I know it makes no sense. However, I had three pots/skillets to scrub after I cooked chicken on top of the stove. Now, I have those three plus two iron skillets with scrambled egg dried on. One pan is from yesterday and another from breakfast this morning. None of the jobs are hard to homemaker here loves losing fingernails to iron skillets.

Seriously, to avoid buying scrubbies and feel good about myself for not consuming so much plastic AND to avoid spending money, I found a really simple solution.

Everyone needs something to scrub off that last bit of scrambled egg on the plate or oatmeal in the pot. You can avoid being a scrubbie consumer by making a scrubbie instead of purchasing. Also, buying a scrubbie will be costly, especially if you consider the options. If you never leave scrambled egg or oatmeal or any other food and on items and religiously wash all dishes or soak them, read no further. I’m serious. Do something useful and leave this article.

There are sites with directions for knitting or crocheting wash cloths and scrubbies from net and from produce bags. Okay, I don’t knit. I do not want to buy net. I really don’t want to sit down and try to crochet something to scrub off my scrambled egg, something that will not come out of the skillet or off a plate without a bit of assistance. Elbow grease is good, but a scrubbie works best unless you have a day to soak scrambled egg leavings.

Okay, you guessed it, I do not feel compelled to scurry along and wash dishes in a timely manner, so I have all yesterdays' dishes to wash, all that would not go in the dishwaher. Whew! It feels soooo good to get that off my chest!

Okay, back to the regular programming.

I was in a hurry, did not have a scrubbie because my last one bit the dust, and I needed a scrubbie NOW. Sure, I could get those net bags from safari produce and crochet a scrubbie really fast. Yeah, sure, sure I can! I looked under the sink and found the net bag. Perfect!

Then, with a few deft moves, I tied that baby into knots several times. Guess what, folks—a thirty second scrubbie! Since I tied it loosely to have more in my hand to protect my fingernails and to have a larger scrubbing surface, it untied quickly. Scrambled eggs get all goo-ed up in a regular scrubbie. Then, it must go through the dishwasher to restore it to anything I want to use again. (I really do love the yellow and red scrubbies.)

Consider the benefits of my method:

*I had the net bag—free

*I did not purchase a scrubbie

* I did not purchase net to crochet

*no skills were needed

*Okay, skill to tie several knots was necessary (mastered around the age of three)

*Knitting needle or crochet hook was not necessary

*net bag was untied and put into the dishwasher

After this little experiment the next day I decided to go a step further. I took the dishcloth I was using and wrapped the net bag around it. The food was easily removed from dishes once again! To me, this is like the dishcloths that have net sewn on them that are available to purchase. When I look at those in the store, I always consider the fact that any bits of food might get between the cloth and net. Sorry, but that grosses me out. I would then spend an inordinate amount of time trying to extricate the food particles before commencing my life. Ewwww!

That is why I just look at the net/cloth dish cloths at the store. I never purchase!

(Full disclosure: I found my favorite scrubbie on clearance at the grocery. Oh Joy! Only $0.40 instead of $2. I bought all they had. Now, this store will not restock the items, so I don't feel like I am causing more scrubbies to be manufactured. My parsimony has its own rules--remember the practical part? That said, I still have never and will never purchase the cloths and sponges that have net attached and collect bits of food.)

 Remember, no plastic will be produced to replace my clearance scrubbies.

I still use my produce-bag-knotted-net scrubbie for many things.

The chicken leavings and the eggs are gone from the pots and pans. And, all's right with the world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

1950s--fans, oppressive summer heat and nostalgia

As I was looking at the June 2010 issue of Country Living, there was an article about the nostalgia of classic electric fans. The fans they showed were round table models and one round type like a box fan. These are nothing like the fans that bring back memories of my youth. We had no pink fans! And, certainly no protection from our monster black fans.

When we would drive from Jackson, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, we drove mostly at night. My siblings would sleep. Mama told me to sleep. But, sleep rarely came to me as we slipped through the dark, sometimes the only car on the road. I was fascinated to see the sun come up. Usually, I would rather have been asleep at sunrise.

In the early 1950s we had no air conditioner in the car or at home. (Neither did any of our relatives.) So, driving during the night made the trip bearable in the summer. We would leave about 3 a.m. Besides, my parents had four children, sleeping instead of fussing about who looked at whom, wanting to eat, needing to make bathroom stops, complaining about the heat, and a million other things we could think up on a long trip.

We arrived at our uncle's house and waited until everyone awoke. My grandmother lived in a tiny house out back, built just for her. Sooner or later that morning, I would be tired because of no sleep all night. Eventually, I would be so exhausted and begging to sleep that I would be taken to my grandmother's house to sleep on her double bed.

Mama always adjusted the fan to blow on me. I remember sleeping so soundly in the intolerable heat with a fan humming away, cooling me only a bit and leaving me with a sore throat. Our house was never that hot, and we never slept with the fan directly on us at such close range. AND, we never took a nap on the bed at home! I can close my eyes and see grandma's house and hear that loud, old fan.

When I was about eight, we still took naps every day of the week we were not in school. In the summer we slept on the cool wood floors with a fan stirring the air. Beds were too squishy to be cool. Mattresses held our body heat and pressed into our damp bodies, unlike the bare wood floors. When mosquitoes invaded the house and evaded my mother and her pump Gulf Spray, the fans kept us from being bitten. Mosquitoes did not land when a breeze buffeted them about.

Fans were just a way of life back then. At one house Daddy put two screens together and freshly-mown grass in between. He soaked the grass with water and turned on the huge, square, window fan to pull air into the house. We became very cold on even the most torrid days. Of course, no one knew we were all allergic to grass!

Just look at the picture. A grown man could just plunge his arm through to the shoulder. One whack of the fan blade, and he would only need one glove. (picture is way below and I cannot move it!)

We always had fans that were black table models. The one thing I remember that they all had in common was that they were DANGEROUS. Yes, the bars across the front to shield the blades from little fingers were three and four inches apart, allowing access to the blades. One day, when I was about fourteen, I walked into a room where a fan was sitting on a table just inside the door. As I entered the door, I dropped my hand--right into the fan. All four fingers look like they had been beaten and felt even worse. About two days later, I could finally move my fingers and the knuckles were not as swollen. That is how we often had lessons reinforced long ago. Never after that did I allow my hand near a fan.

Of course, everyone had to be vigilant about children just learning to pull up and those just learning to walk. They were the most likely to investigate. Toddlers were mischievous, and older children and teens were just not careful. For all the dangers in fans, I still remember them fondly.

In the kitchen a fan and open windows did not suppress the oppressive heat of the day and cooking in an oven. But, it was the best most people had. Folks, we just sweated lots. Living in the Deep South at that time in the summer was hard. Heat was just a fact of life for about eight months of the year. Electric table fans were our only salvation.

Right now, in the Deep South I am suffering. There is no central air in this house, just an ac window unit meant to cool several rooms. Since it was installed in the window in 1977, I suppose I am lucky it blows anything resembling cool air. I use a fan to pull the cooled air from a window ac unit in another room into the kitchen. This way, I don't have to run the ac continuously to make the kitchen bearable.  At dusk the temperature was 92 degrees. The temperature is not falling below 75 during the night!

The fans over 50 years after I napped with one are hunks of plastic with some metal. They have no style and no imagination. But, they do move air.

Is it hot where you are? Do you remember the old, black fans of the 50s?