Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Welcome New Readers!

Thanks to a link from Make:blog, traffic to Whittled Down has exploded in the last few days. If you've just found my blog--welcome! If you like what you see, I hope you'll check back once in awhile. This is a blog full of sustainable living ideas for regular folks. Everything you read in this blog can be done by someone who works full time and rents a house (some projects, like chickens, may depend on how cool your landlord is).

Happy Exploring,

Oh, and if you new readers have comments, please leave them!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Truth or Consequences

Tristan and I spent the weekend in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, at a gathering of homesteader folk from around the country. The gathering was graciously and capably hosted by our friends over at blog.holyscraphotsprings.com. We had a fantastic time! It was truly an inspiring get-together, not to mention one of the best skill shares I've ever attended.

We played with papercrete, which is a mixture of concrete and shredded paper, heavy on the shredded paper (a salvaged material). In the Southwest, prickly pear cactus can also be added to the mix as a binder. Prickly pear can also be used to make paint and other fun things. Holy Scrap uses papercrete as a construction material for fences and to make beautiful domed buildings. Check out these papercrete blocks with papercrete fence behind:

There were also lots of bicycle enthusiasts at the gathering. A fellow from Austin showed off his nearly no-weld pedicab frame, which he assembled in just a few minutes:

The Within Reach film project graced us with their presence as well. These kids are on a 12,000 mile bike journey to explore and experience the wide range of "sustainable communities" across the country. Their aim is to produce a series of shorts and finally a feature-length documentary that will inspire us to create and expand these ways of living sustainably, and help us to realize that perhaps we're nearing Critical Mass, and a sustainable future is already "Within Reach". Check out their wheels (well, everything but the wheels...my digital camera messed up):

We brought our rocket stove with us, and we were able to enter it into a successful breeding program. Behold, our rocket stove's Holiday Appropriate Offspring, by the lovely creators of http://ryanishungry.com and http://ryanedit.blogspot.com/:

I could go on and on, and maybe I will...later.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cold Frame

I mentioned in an earlier post that we finally finished our first cold frame. Rumor has it you can grow cold hardy greens year-round in Northern New Mexico if you use one of these suckers. How great would it be to have fresh, homegrown Spinach in February? Cold frames are such a simple technology, cheap (free!) to build, and they increase our ability to sustain ourselves year-round tremendously.

We shut it tight at night (even cover it with cardboard for extra insulation) and during the day we crack the windows so it doesn't get tooooo hot in there. We transplanted some chard and lettuce from a less sunny spot, and though I was skeptical, they seem to have rooted. We also planted some leftover cold-hardy seeds in there. Unfortunately, it's been cloudy/snowing for the past 2 days, so I guess this will be a test for the cold frame.

Take a peek inside (when the snow was just beginning):


Gratuitous chicken pictures, because we finally got our digital camera working again, and because they look awesome in the snow. Click on the picture for more at Tristan's Flickr account!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Buy Nothing Week: Dumpster Lunch

Tuesday's lunch was made almost exclusively from things we got from our favorite dumpster. A large Caesar Salad with Chicken Strips on top, and a really delicious seafood stew with penne (penne was not dumpstered).

We stopped dumpstering for awhile after a security guard busted us with our bike baskets full of goodies, but we've since gotten the inside scoop on his schedule and can avoid him. Plus, the cold weather helps to alleviate food safety concerns.

I went to yoga again last night, and learned that there will be some opportunities for free class this Sunday, which is Santa Fe Yoga Day. I will not, however, be doing 108 Sun Salutations for World Peace. Maybe next year. That is a lot of Sun Salutations.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Buy Nothing Week

This may seem silly to some of you, but for someone who spends so much time making her own this and that, I have a problem with buying things. Maybe I have a really strong, misplaced hunter/gatherer instinct. Maybe it's an addiction, or a bad habit. Whatever the case, I despise the pleasure I feel when I exchange money for something--almost anything, really.

This isn't an extreme problem, mind you. I haven't racked up tons of credit card debt--I don't even have a credit card. My home isn't filled with plastic chotkes, shiny electronic devices, etc. It's just that I'm always deciding that there's something I need, and that, though I could make it, I'd rather just buy it.

These sentiments, combined with the yucky, overconsumptive feeling that the holiday season brings, have led me to declare my own personal Buy Nothing Week.

My Buy Nothing Week began on Saturday. Right off the bat, I had to cheat (slightly). I had committed to going to brunch with some friends. Luckily one of these friends owed me money from the night before, so HE bought my breakfast. Still, I ate out, which is usually one of my biggest expenditures. The rest of the day went just fine. I suppressed the urge to visit the thrift store, and spent the day in the yard instead, moving the compost bin from a hard-to-reach corner of the yard to a spot much closer to the house. That evening, I was faced with another cheat (this is the one allowance I had planned ahead of time). I had previously signed up for a series of yoga classes down the street, and Saturday evening was the first class. So I went and paid my $40. The class goes for the whole month, and I've been trying to get back into Yoga since I moved to Santa Fe. Some friends showed up bearing dinner, so we feasted, drank, and had a lovely sing-a-long late into the night.

Sunday Tristan and I finished the cold frame we've been working on (well, mostly not working on) for weeks. We already had all the materials, which were free anyway. The cold frame really deserves its own post, so more on that later. I did some house cleaning and downloaded a bunch of free podcasts instead of succumbing to my sudden desire to buy a bunch of Gillian Welch and Odetta albums. Later in the day, I decided to tackle the CSA overflow that is threatening to rot in our refrigerator. Can you believe that even our winter CSA is so bountiful that three people, one of them vegan, can polish it off in a week? I blanched and then froze a giant back of spinach, which is now a teeny, tiny block of frozen spinach. And I canned those daikon radish and carrots you see in the post below. That took HOURS, and at one point I despaired because we could not find our fresh jar lids for canning. They turned up at the last minute, and I did not have to buy any after all.

Though exhausted, we decided to make a late night dumpster raid, and came back bearing several bags of nuts, cranberries, cranberry sauce, a dozen eggs, salsa, and probably 12 containers of overripe, but not moldy, raspberries. Dumpster diving definitely satisfies my need to acquire *Stuff* without costing me any money.

The work week is the real challenge for my Buy Nothing Week. Normally, even if I bring my lunch, I buy something small from the co-op almost every day. The co-op is about a quarter of a mile from my office, and I walk down there to take advantage of their picnic tables and end up buying some cheese or a slice of pizza or...This annoys me. Since I'm really not capable of getting up early enough to pack a lunch, I came home for lunch today, made a sandwich, hung around the house, and then returned to work. Simple! It's wonderful to live so close to the office. Now if only I didn't have to go to an office at all...

I am sorry this post is long and journally, Dear Readers. Unfortunately, I will continue to update you on my urges to buy things and how I managed to avoid them all week! I'm hoping that by the end of the week I will have broken some of my habitual buying habits, and will be better able to gauge when I need to buy something and when I do not. (Oh, and buy (sic) the way, since this is the holiday season, I encourage all of you to Buy Nothing for the Holidays as well). Watch What Would Jesus Buy? and read What Would the Buddha Buy? for moral support. Beware the shopocalypse.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Daikon Dilemma

Over the past several weeks, we've accumulated 3.5 pounds of Daikon Radish from our CSA. We're finding it hard to eat that much radish, though we've been adding it to stir-fries and soups. It was time to find a way to preserve this stuff so that we can eat it at our leisure.

We turned to one of our trusty favorites, Stocking Up, for guidance. Turns out they have a recipe for Marinated Daikon Radish. It's actually more of a daikon/carrot salad that you can. Yum, we hope. We have a bumper crop of CSA carrots as well, so we got to choppin'.

Several hours later, we have 3/4 of a gallon of canned daikon/carrot mix. Pictures and taste review to come later.