Frugal

Doing more while spending less money

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (and Bicycles)

Southwest Chief - Lamy, NM Train Station

The Iron Horse (aka. train) shaped much of the modern Western US. Despite that history, most of us now travel long distances by car or plane because of the supposed convenience. I've flown and driven across the country countless times, so I wanted to try something new. For a trip from Santa Fe, NM to Kansas City, MO I traveled by bicycle and passenger train. The trip went smoothly and was much lower carbon than either automobile or passenger jet. I'm now a fan of train travel and hope that train travel in the U.S. can be improved.

Reaping Rewards

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with lattice crust

With some recent cooking projects, I was again reminded that good things come to those who wait (and preserve).

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Wallow Fire Smoke at Sunset

Living in the Southwest many of us are accustomed to brilliant blue skies, 100 mile views and great air quality. But clean air isn't guaranteed, especially in the spring and summer fire season. Currently, firefighters in Eastern AZ (and soon Western NM) are fighting the Wallow Fire, which has grown to hundreds of thousands of acres. Wildfire is dangerous for those in it's path and living downwind in the smoke plume.

Timing is Everything

DIY Cold Frame made from a reused storm door and redwood

I'm a DIY sort of guy. If I think I can build something, I'll probably try. The DIY route often works out just fine. But, sometimes a project will take a longer than anticipated. For example, I just finished building a cold frame. A cold frame is an unheated mini-greenhouse used for gardening through the cold winter months. Of course, I finished the cold frame just in time for summer. Or, maybe I'm early?

In Just Ten Minutes a Day...

Nate Downey signing 'Harvest the Rain'

'Can I have a minute of your time?' Have you ever heard those words from a stranger, probably holding a clipboard, on the street? Did you stop for a minute or walk by more quickly? I consider my time precious and often walk past. In 'Harvest the Rain' author Nate Downey boldly asks for 10 minutes of your time every day to spend on catching, directing and using rainwater. After reading his book I'm not sure he asked for enough.

Oh Poop!

Mule Poop

It takes a little planning and a few barnyard animals, but finding free fertilizer can be easy and cheap. A friend of mine who lives outside of town has mules ... and their byproducts. Mules are great animals, if you have the room for them, and they produce a considerable amount of fertilizer. Local stables can be a good source of livestock manure if you can haul it away and compost the stuff.

The Downside of Takeout

Trash Can, full of disposable packaging

Ours is usually a 'half-full trash bin' sort of family. Some of our neighbors roll out an overflowing trash bin each week while our bin usually holds one small bag. Our full recycling bins and compost account for some reduction in our trash output. I try to avoid excess packaging and waste, but we definitely aren't a zero-waste family. Our trash bag filled quickly this week when we ordered takeout food that was packaged in unrecyclable styrofoam clamshells.

Darn!

Darning wool socks

The more I learn about conservation and frugality, the more I re-discover what my grandparents knew. In this case it's darning. I vastly prefer the warmth and comfort of wool socks, glove liners and sweaters to cotton and most synthetics. Those same wool garments (especially socks) consistently wear out in the same places. Instead of throwing out mostly-good wool socks I've started darning (mending) them and extending their useful life.

Eco Resolutions and Results

Times Square New Year's Eve Ball

Like many folks, I made a New Year's Resolution last January. "That's my plan for 2010, make one dozen changes to burn less fossil fuel and eat more locally." According to Psychology Today, "setting specific goals, sharing our resolutions with others, and focusing on the benefits of achieving the resolution" are simple strategies towards sticking to resolutions. I hoped my goal was ambitious yet achievable and I shared it with EcoDaddyo readers. Now let's see how well I kept my resolutions.

2010 Resolution Results

Hatches, Battened

Storm Warning flag

There's nothing like the threat of winter and an onrushing storm to motivate me to finish a slew of projects. Summer seemed to stretch on forever and our fall was mild until recently. But we've woken to a few dustings of snow lately so I overcame my inertia to finish a few more projects. I've replaced and re-weatherstripped the back door and covered a gaping hole in the wall behind a bathroom vanity. Wow, why did those projects take me so long to finish?

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