How Many clothes Does One Need?

Now that I have ended my challenge, I am faced with two sets of wardrobes. The combined total of all the clothing I have may be closer to three of four wardrobes.  But how do I decide what to keep, what to save in case there are leaner times, and what do I get rid of. I don’t get rid of things easily. If I really don’t like something or know I have no use for it, it is easier. When I am unsure, or I like it but have several, then things get harder.

So I need a plan. I need to decide exactly how many pants, skirts, shirts, blouses, sweater, jackets, and coats to keep. Do any of you out there subscribe to the system where each time you buy a new item, an equivalent item has to go? If you do, then how do you get to the starting place where you decide you have enough?

Having enough will be different for each of us. I think there are three things that dictate how much clothing to own. What we do for a living, how big our closets are and weather. Here in Florida we wear shorts 6-12 months of the year. Up North I’m guessing it is more like 3 months. So I would want more pairs of them. I don’t often pack my shorts away for the winter, but I do pack my winter things away for the summer. What do you do when the seasons change?

So now that I am bringing my clothes down from the attic and looking through them I am noticing my reactions. There actually have been few items that I have said, “Oh wow! I can’t wait to wear that again.” Mostly it has been, “Oh yeah, I remember that.”  The two shirts that I had been missing were my cotton and wool river driver shirts.  I have been happy to see some things and will definitely keep those.

I have my MIL visiting again. This has delayed me in getting all the boxes down and sorting through everything. Had to get the house cleaned up first. In the next few weeks I will be sorting, packing and donating.

So how many of each item of clothing do you have?

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The Low Energy Fridge

Awhile back on the Riot for Austerity on-line, support site, I saw a link to a refrigerator that claimed it only used 0.1Kwh/day. I was really intrigued by this and anxious to give it a try. Although it has not lived up to its extremely low energy use, it is quite a bit lower than the average fridge. Lower than average is what I seem to be about these days so we have stuck with it. Until Thursday.

Thursday was the day Tropical Storm Fay was scheduled to blow through the area. Schools were canceled and I was fed up with my 6.8 cubic foot fridge. So was my husband. Not only is it small, but it is a cube, so you have to layer everything in there and things can hang out at the bottom for weeks unnoticed.

Last year we had your regular fridge, 18 cubic feet, freezer on the top, no frills. I realize this in itself was less than average, since most people I know have larger fridges that tend to be side by side. These use a lot more energy. Our 1999, no frills 18 cu ft energy star fridge was using 1.6 Kwh/day. That is 585 per year. So what we did was buy a 6.8 cuft chest freezer for $200 and a temperature controller for $60. The temp controller allows you to over ride the freezer control so it maintains a temp of 38-42F. You plug the temp controller in the wall socket and the freezer into the controller. The controller turns the freezer on when the temp gets to 42F and then off when it reaches 38F. We have a killawatt meter to measure energy use. It told us that the new fridge was averaging 0.3-0.4kwh/day. Usage fluctuates more here in Florida, with higher energy use in the summer.

One of the main draw backs to doing this is that you no longer have a freezer. Well if you are like us, then you already had a 12 cuft chest freezer to store all your garden produce. So we really did not need that small freezer attached to a stand up fridge. If you are a small family, your needs could be met with two small chest freezers and one controller. Buying everything new might cost less than $400.  Not bad to get more freezer space than a small fridge with freezer would provide.

Our family of four was having trouble using such a small fridge. 6.8 cuft isn’t that small, but doesn’t lend itself to great ease of use. It made it so my kids had to depend on us to get most things out for them, unless it happened to be right on top. The milk never was.

So FINALLY, this past Thursday, I was charged up by the storm, and decided to make a major change. Did we run out and buy a huge fridge to make up for how we had deprived ourselves? No, because we really had not, we just switched the fridge with the freezer. So now we have a 6.8cuft freezer and a 12 cuft fridge. WOW, it was SO easy. Aside from moving everything out, cleaning the inside and switching all the contents, the only thing I had to do was move the temperature controller. I think we will even save energy and money.  You see, keeping a freezer cold, uses more energy than keeping a fridge cold. Since we are keeping less space and stuff frozen. I have not hooked the killawatt up to the “new” appliances yet, but can let you know in the future what the energy use is.  Now maybe you are asking yourself-well where is all the garden produce going now? Well in the past year I have learned to preserve food by canning, lacto-fermenting and drying. I have a hot water bath as well as a pressure canner. So I shouldn’t need as much space. So far I am happy with the new arrangement, until I go digging for something at the bottom of the freezer. Atleast it isn’t a daily occurrence like it has been. Now on to some photographs.

6.8cuft chest freezer in refridgerator space

6.8cuft chest freezer in refridgerator space

We chose the 6.8cuft freezer because it would fit into the space where our refrigerator was. This picture was taken after the swith so the controller is not shown. Now our freezer is in the kitchen and the fridge is in the laundry room. So far, no big deal.
Temperature controller

Temperature controller

Sorry it is blurry. It is a Johnson Controls temperature controller. It was purchased at a brewing supply store for $60. You can get them online if you don’t have a supply store in your area. Notice at the bottom of the picture there is a small wire sticking down next to a large one. The large one is the power cord and the small one is the wire that leads to the temperature sensor that goes into the unit. See next picture.
Temperature sensor inside "fridge"

Temperature sensor inside

 At the end of the wire is a thick piece of metal that measures the temperature inside the unit.

Inside of 12 cuft freezer-now fridge

Inside of 12 cuft freezer-now fridge

This is our 12cuft chest freezer. I have like items organized together. Veggies in the center basket, cheese, sour cream and tofu in the basket on the right. Eggs and miscellaneous on the left. Then there is a lot of room under the baskets.

On the left of the photo you can see the black power cord and the silver temperature controller wire. The wire lays across the top lip of the box and continues in under the left basket. 

I think we will be happy with this new arrangement. Would you be?

 

 

 

 

 

An Entire Year of Rioting for Austerity

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. Sharon Astyk and her friend Miranda were discussing George Monbiot’s book “Heat”, where he discusses the need for industrialized nations to reduce their emissions by 94%. They wondered what a life would be like lived that way, since Chinese peasants seem to be the standard for low impact living. So they challenged each other to reduce there consumption and emissions by 90%, which makes accounting easier than 94%. They did this on their blogs and what do you know, other people decided to give it a try as well. So they ended up being amazed that over 1000 people were interested in joining them. Before March 2007, I had never read a blog. I’m not sure I even knew what one was. I started by reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavin. His blog linked to Sharon’s and The Riot, and that is what got me where I am today.

So today I am revealing what a year of rioting figures look like in our household. When doing the numbers, we figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. Figures can be represented as a reduction of average use or as a percent of average. I’ll list both so as not to confuse anyone. There are seven categories for this project.

Gasoline:  The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000 gallons a year. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. We used 230.72 gallons over a year. That is 19.2 gal/month and is 11.5% of average or an 88.5% reduction . And as reported previously, this does not include airline trips taken in November or any other time. So to be completely honest about the whole deal I am figuring up what these flights actually cost in terms of fuel use. I did a bit of research and found that according to one source a long haul flight gets 30mpg/person. Another site helped me figure out how many miles from home to Honolulu. 9,650 miles divided by 30mpg gives me 321gallons per person and with four of us equates to burning 1,287 gallons of gas for our vacation. A vacation I might add was planned and paid for 8 months before the riot began. Then in October my husband took my son to visit his Aunt and Grandmother. That adds another 198 gallons. Then in February our daughter flew to Indianapolis with my mother to go to a wedding and that adds another 73.4 gallons. So the grand total is really 1789.12 gallons. And that my friend brings us way down, or way up to 90% of average use or a 10% reduction.

Electric: The average household uses 900 kwh/month or close to 11,000/year. We used 4983kwh over a year. That is 415.25kwh/month so our usage is 46% of average or a 54% reduction. Many people doing the riot have the option of buying green energy. Wind and hydro give you an additional 75% reduction and solar gives you 50%. We pay for 750kwh of green energy each month, only ours is 5% wind and solar combined and the other 95% is landfill gas. I was never able to figure out what further reduction we should get. If in fact I could get a 50% reduction that would bring our electric use down to 23% of average or a 77% reduction. If it was more of a 25% reduction then it would look more like 35% of average or 65% reduction. 

Therms:  The average household uses 83.3 therms of natural gas per month or 1000 therms over the season,  much of it is used for heating. We have used no gas heat this past year, but did heat water and cook with gas. We used 112 therms over the year or 9.3/month. That equates to 11.2% of average or an 88.8% reduction. Having purchased a solar water heater, our future outlook is 4-6 therms per month or about 60 therms per year. This would be 6% of average or a 94% reduction.

Garbage:  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month or a staggering 6,480 pounds per year. We created 157.5 pounds of trash and 402 pounds of recyclables during the past 11 months that I have been weighing ALL our garbage. Recyclables count 80% of trash so the 402 pounds becomes 321.6 pounds. Adding the two together gives us a garbage total of 479.1 pounds for the time period or 43.5 pounds per month. That gives us 8% of average or a 92% reduction.

Water: The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kgallons a month. Over the past 12 months we have used 26 kgallons of water. According to the Riot rules, water for irrigation of food is not counted. We had a drought during our growing season and are estimating we used 6kgal to water the garden. That leaves us with 20kgal to account for. That would mean we used about 1.7 kgal/month which is 14% of average or an 86% reduction.

Consumer Goods. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month. We easily spent the average amount of money since we purchased quite a few high ticket sustainability items such as a solar water heater, two low flow toilets, a pressure canner, a water filter, a new freezer oh yes and new windows. Having recently moved into a new/older house we have many things to upgrade and certainly not just for cosmetic reasons. A new roof is in our future as well as some new flooring. Not calculated.

Food: Food is a difficult thing to measure. Do you measure by weight, serving or by dollars spent. I never did any of these things because I could not keep track to that degree. So I can only say that our family went from eating a diet of mostly processed foods to one of few processed foods. We mostly buy fruits and veggies that are local and in season or pick directly from our garden. I have been buying much of our food from bulk bins and cooking dried beans and grains from scratch. The ideal that we have been shooting for according to Riot guidelines is to eat at least 70% of your diet from local and organic sources. Then 25% of your diet can come from bulk, dry goods like beans and grains, also loose tea or fair trade coffee. Then wet goods like conventionally grown meat, fruits and veggies, oils and milk should only make up about 5% of your diet. This last category is what makes up the larger portion of the average American diet. We started out at least at average and have ended up making it to 35% local/organic, 50% bulk, and 15% wet, conventional. This is the category we need the most work in. Getting enough local food is hard in a society that doesn’t value it. 

I enjoy calculating our numbers, heck I even enjoyed weighing all the trash. It was just so satisfying to see the difference you could make. Why don’t you try some of the easier things. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planet’s finite resources you are using.   

The best advice I can give anyone in how to make a difference to our planet is USE LESS. Use less of EVERYTHING.             

June Riot Update

Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. For those who started when the project began, the year has come to maturity. I had not planned on keeping data for another month, but since I did, I figured I would post it. I am pretty sure this will be my last update.

We are a  family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories as follows. 

Gasoline: We purchased 20.1 gallons in June. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. Our use of 20.1 gal was 12% of average.  

Electric: We used 456 Kwh from  June 12 to July 14 . The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 50.6% of average. We have started using the air conditioner full time and even though it is not set as high as last year, we are using less energy because we bought new windows last October. Our usage one year ago however was 884 Kwh for the same month.

Therms: We used 6 therms of natural gas from  June 12 to July 14. Our usage is 7% of average. We are only using natural gas to cook with currently. The average household uses 83.3 therms per month or 1000 therms over the season, much of it is used for heating. 

Garbage: We created 4 1/2 pounds of trash and 8 1/2 pounds of recyclables in June. We are at 2% of average.  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks. 

Water: We used 1 kilogallons from June 12 to July 14. It went down from 6!  I have not had to water our garden since it started raining June 1st.  The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four or 12 Kgal a month. Our 1 Kgal is 8% of average. Glad to be back to normal.

Consumer Goods-I dropped the ball on tracking this. I think I spent quite a bit less in this area, mostly because we did not need any more toilets. We did spend some money on chicken wire to build our chicken coop. I know we bought a  few more things, but no where near $833 the average family spends per month. 

Food: I think we did really well this month for food choices. I think our purchases ended up with local at 35%, bulk category at 50% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is down to 15%. I have been to the farmers market almost every Saturday and am eating out of the garden as well.

Now that I have a years worth of information, I am going to do a year end summary, to show how our family fared over the course of a year. I said that last month, but have better numbers for this June than last, so will use this years. It isn’t cheating since we didn’t start the Riot till July anyway.

Independance Days Update for June

I have been lazy about posting my Independance updates. I have only done one prior to this. This is my update for about the past month or more. I don’t think I have the mental energy to update every week. What have you guys been up to?

PLANTED- Rattlesnake pole beans(94)

HARVESTED- lots of tomatoes, 4 veg marrow, one EGG, 14 lbs potatoes, black eyed peas.

PRESERVED- Froze 4 lbs blueberries, Canned blueberry jam and whole blueberries. Made 3 pints sauerkraut, 3 pints watermelon preserves. 2 pints dilly beans.

STORED- 10 more jars of organic peanut butter(purchased for $1 each), 7 bags of rice 5lbs each, granola, pinto beans, couscous, 4 bottles lemon juice, sugar, coconut milk, 18- 1lb boxes pasta(buy one get one free), canning salt and 4 jars salsa.

PREPARED-working on chicken coop, purchased more emergency supplies like first aid kit, got hurricane box together and stored. Bought more canning jars and lids.

MANAGED-reorganised pantry to fit everything in.

COOKED-Peanutty Asian Coleslaw and potato salad

LOCAL-talked about food storage with 2 other people locally

REDUCE WASTE-preserved watermelon rind, eating weeds from garden

NEW SKILL-nothing yet

May riot update

I seem to have messed up my original post. I’ll try to fix it when I have time.

Recycled Art

A friend sent this information too me. Lynne Stein is an artist who uses cast-off clothing to make artwork. It is very beautiful and could be very useful as well. Check out the others who are recycling what they find into art.

BBC – North West Wales In Pictures – Lynne Stein

Now if I could only figure out where to find some clothing that nobody wanted so I could make one of these as well…..hummm.

 

 

April Riot Update

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. There are a growing number of people all over the world, still joining this movement to help halt climate change. What are you willing to do to help save the world as we know it?

I finally have all my numbers for the month of April. As I stated last month, as part of The Riot For Austerity we usually figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories. For two weeks we had my husbands mother staying with us so I will adjust the figures that are per person. 

Gasoline: We purchased 13.11 gallons in April. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. Our use of 13.11 gallons was 7.9% of average.  Our 11 month cumulative total is 223.02 gallons or 12.2 % of average. And as reported previously, this does not include airline trips taken in November. If I add in two weeks of gas allotment for an extra adult, we come down to an even 7% of average, woo hoo!

Electric: We used 315 Kwh from  April 11 to May13 . The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 35% of average. Our lowest usage was in January and the numbers have been slowly climbing. We jumped from 25% last month to 35% this time. The warmer weather makes the fridge and freezer work harder. And one week before the meter was read we had our water heater switched from gas to electric to have a solar water heater installed. Electric is per household, but we did have an extra member for two weeks.

Therms: We used 9 therms of natural gas from  April 11 to May 13. Our usage is 11% of average. More hot water was used with an extra adult.  The average household uses 83.3 therms per month or 1000 therms over the season, since much of it is used for heating. We have used no gas heat this past year, but do heat water and cook with gas..

Garbage: We created 14.75 pounds of trash and 20.75 pounds of recyclables in April. Recyclables count 80% of trash so we are at 5.8% of average. If I figure in two weeks of an extra person it brings us down to 5.2%. The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks.

Water: We used 4 kilogallons from April 11 to May 13. It went up from 2. We have been watering our garden since about April 11th. We went five weeks with no rain! The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kg a month. Our 4 Kg is 33% of average. The creators of The Riot say that water used to water your vegetable garden or crops does not count the same as household water use. We cannot separate the two. But I can guess that we used 2 Kg for household and 2Kg for watering. That would take us down to 16% of average. And if I add in the allotment for another adult for 2 weeks we come down to 14.9%.

Consumer Goods. Well during April I was participating in the buy nothing challenge with Crunchy Chicken.  I was not able to truly buy nothing. I bought 24 books from our friends of the library book sale. $16 but counts as $1.60 because they are used. We spent money on a camping trip for spring break, but didn’t buy anything tangible. I did really need to buy my daughter some new tennis shoes for $21.85. Then our big expense/purchase for the month was a new toilet. $347.00.  It counts as half under riot rules since it is infrastructure to reduce usage. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month. We spent adjusted $326.98 or 39% of average.

Food: This category is always hard for me. I just guess what I think we eat and spend money on and then I double check what my husband thinks. I think we did better than last month with local at 30%, bulk category at 45% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is down to 25%. 

In summary our gasoline use decreased by 2 percentage points, Electric went up 10 percentage points, Nat gas use went up a percentage point.  Garbage had been dropping but went up 2 percentage points. Water use increased by 50% again, increasing 16 percentage points, but really staying the same for household use. Consumer goods is higher since we bought a big ticket item and will be next month since we plan to buy another toilet. And the food category is pretty much the same but with a definite move in the right direction….towards local!    

I have to say that my mother in law was a great sport the entire two weeks she stayed with us. She turned the water off while soaping up and shampooing, she sat outside and read books using natural light and enjoying the warmth(she is from Wisconsin). She gave us money for the farmers market and ate quite a bit of local vegetarian food. She even discovered some new foods she liked. It was a great visit all around!

If my mother in law can have a great time doing this, you can too. So why don’t you take some time to look at your utility and gasoline bills, and see where you fall on the percentage chart. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planet’s finite resources you are using.                

Independance Days

Recently I decided to join a challenge created  by Sharon Astyk who is one of the founders of the Riot for Austerity. Her challenge is called “Independance Days Challenge”. I almost wasn’t going to do it, but I find myself trying to keep up with the Joneses. These are Joneses from a very different sort of neighborhood.

Basically the challenge is all about increasing your personal independance from market society. There are ten things to work on during the week and you are supposed to do atleast one everyday. Now looking at things that way makes it look easier. Here are the ten things.

1. plant something 2. harvest something 3. Preserve something  4. store something  5. prepare something  6. Manage something  7. cook something new.  8. work on local food systems  9. reduce waste               and 10. learn a new skill

So this week so far, I have

1. It rained last fri so I Planted 16 pineapple tomatillos, 4 reg tomatillos, 2 pimento peppers

2. Harvested several cherry tomatoes, several small tomatoes, yellow squash, vegetable marrow, green beans and a pound of potatoes.

3. Preserved quart and pint of veg marrow pickles, and a quart and pint of Daikon radish kraut. Took all tomatoes from last year or older out of the freezer and made 6 pints spaghetti sauce.

4. stored 2 extra bottles vinegar, 3 extra bottles soybean oil(organic at $1 each!), 3 extra jars peanut butter I also went to 3 thrift stores and bought 11 canning jars, two 8 packs of candles, 2 pair of shoes for my son, four still in package pillow cases and kitchen curtains. Purchased case of pints and case of quarts, lids and rings, emergency candles and a mantle for my Alladin lamp.

5. prepared, well I bought salt to make more pickles, researched sites to buy a pressure canner and then bought the canner.

6. managed-I went through all the non-canning jars and paired them up with lids, organised panty

7. cooked something new- Made salsa fresca

8   local food – discussed gardening with a new friend                   

9. reduced waste- brought home 3 bags and two boxes from the dumpster, mostly clothes

10. learned a new skill- canned spaghetti sauce for the first time

Vegetable Fermentation

Last week I took a class in vegetable fermentation from a friend of mine. She is a bio-dynamic farmer and grows vegetables and cows. She milks the cows and we get milk from her every week. She took a class several years ago from Sandor Katz who wrote the book “Wild Fermentation”.

My friend brought about eight different ferments for us to taste. Gingered carrots, sauerkraut, beet kvass,  zucchini pickles, kimchee and some others. They were all delicious!

Then she showed us how to make the zucchini pickles and the beet kvass and then let us make our own. After four days of sitting on my counter, I tried the pickles and they were excellent, just as good as my friends.

So with quite a few vegetable marrow (heirloom zucchini) from my own garden, garlic from my garden and dill..well…from my garden, I set out to make my own pickles at home.

Place all herbs or spices in bottom of a quart sized jar. I added dill weed and dill seed as well as garlic. My friend recommends adding either grape leaves or juniper berries to help retain crispness. I had neither at home.

Select veggies and cut into pickle wedges. If they are small you can leave them whole.

Insert veggies into jar, leaving an inch or more of head space. Pack very tightly!

 Make a brine solution with 2T of all natural sea salt such as Redmonds(NO refined salt) if using whey. Use 3T of sea salt if you don’t have whey.

 This is whey. It is the clear yellow liquid you find at the top of your plain yogurt. You can strain the yogurt through a yogurt cheese maker or through doubled up cheese cloth. This should give you enough whey. You will need 2T per quart. It acts as a starter for the lacto-fermentation process.

 Add the whey and then fill the jar with the brine solution to cover the veggies. Put the lid on. Label your jar with the date and contents and leave it out on your counter. It will take four to ten days to become pickles. Here in Florida where it is 60’s at night(70’s in the house) and 80’s during the day, it will only take 4 days. Leave on your counter and keep an eye on them.

Even if you packed the strips tightly, they will shrink and float to the surface. This is why the spices go on the bottom. If the veggies are poking up through the liquid, you may need to weight them down with a glass.

 When the pickles are done the liquid should look cloudy. If there is any white foamy stuff growing on the surface of the liquid just scrape it off with a spoon and you are good to go. You can taste the pickles at any stage without harm to you or the pickles. Sandor does it all the time. If you have never done this before or eaten something like this, you will be amazed with your results. I sure was. Sandor Katz book “Wild Fermentation” is available at Amazon.com and sometimes even through your local independent bookstore. Happy fermenting.

(Edited to add that when your pickles are “done”, meaning you like the flavor or level of fermentation, then they should be stored in a dark, cool place. It could be a root cellar, closet or a refrigerator. The warmer they are stored, the more likely the fermentation will continue. You could end up with some mushy veggetables, although still safe to eat. Let your nose be your guide. If anything smells or tastes foul or putrified rather than sour then don’t eat it. They should stay good for close to a year if refrigerated. You can hot water bath can the pickles, but then it destoys all the lacto bacilli. But store bought pickles don’t have any anyway, so do what works for you.)

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