A year without trash

12/31/2008 at 9:16 pm (thoughts)

I found this blog — 365 Days of Trash — a couple days ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

It was his goal not to throw anything away for a year. 

When I first heard about it, I thought “this is a fellow I could really like.”

And he made some basic steps. He purchased a folding bowl, utensils and a drink carrier to use instead of disposables.

But then I found a photo of his basement where he’s been storing all the stuff he would’ve normally thrown away. And I was a little disappointed.

Noel and I have been working on reducing our trash load for some time. At one point a couple years ago we were producing less than a grocery sack of garbage per month. We’re making a little more than that now, but we’re working our way back down again.

In fact, my first words of advice to folks trying to live frugally is to cancel your trash service.

When you have to personally find something to do with every bit of material you bring into your home, it really changes your buying habits. You avoid things that were made to be thrown away, all these disposable wipes and swiffer things that are all the rage right now are off your list immediately.

You switch to buying in bulk and providing your own reusable containers. You look for product in packaging that can be reused in some manner. Did you know you can still get many staples in cloth sacks? You can buy flour sack towels at Wal-Mart, or you can get your flour in them and keep the sack for free.

It always irks me to have to pay extra for a product because of its pretty packaging and then pay someone else to haul the pretty packaging off as trash.

So I would encourage everyone this new year to make less trash. And I would suggest to the 365 guy that his next step to go a year without purchasing anything that would need to be disposed of at all and not to just store the garbage in his basement.


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Isn’t it easier?

12/26/2008 at 8:27 pm (thoughts)

When talking to certain family members about what we’ve been up to, we often here the question in the title of this post: “Isn’t it easier to … ?”

For example we’ve been helping a friend of ours butcher more turkeys recently.

Relating the day to family on the phone Noel was asked the question, “Isn’t it easier to just buy from the store?”

First of all, it is NOT easier to purchase a turkey from the store.

It only appears to be easier to the consumer because so much of the process involved in putting the bird on the shelf is hidden from the consumer.

If you take the entire process of taking a factory farm turkey from farm to store into account it is absolutely and unquestionably easier to raise your own bird, kill it, clean it, and put it in your freezer.

Secondly — and more importantly –, it isn’t about what’s “easier” it’s about what’s better.

The turkeys were kept in a more natural environment than factory farm turkeys. They were fed a more natural diet. They were not pumped full of chemicals to make them grow to unnatural sizes in unnaturally short periods of time. These turkeys were killed humanely. They were processed in a clean environment.

These turkeys will taste better. They will be more healthful and nutritious. In short, everything about these turkeys will be better.

I’ve been pondering why we hear this question so often. And I think the problem boils down to a difference of definition.

We put a lot of emphasis on living the “simple” life. And I believe the folks asking us this question define “simple” as “easier.”

But as I talked about earlier, the modern life isn’t really easier. It only appears to be easier because all the things making that life complicated are hidden from general view.

I say hidden, but that’s not even really true. The thing is not hidden so much as it is so big and so complicated as to be incomprehensible.

And that’s the key to my definition of simple.

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Scientific snobbery

12/23/2008 at 7:43 pm (thoughts)

In chapter 1 of Michael Brooks’ book, “13 Things that Don’t Make Sense,” he writes (emphasis his):

“We are privilidged to live in the golden age of cosmology; we know an enormous amount about how the cosmos came to be, how it evolved to its current state, and yet we don’t actually know what most of it is.”

I’m sorry, but am I the only person who sees something wrong with the idea that we can know how a thing began but not know what the thing is?

It was this very scientific insanity that was the topic of Wendell Berry’s book, “Life is a Miracle.” Which is a very good book.

I picked up the book which I quoted at the beginning of this post because of its title, “13 Things that Don’t Make Sense.” The author details several scientific phenomenon which don’t make sense according to our current rules. And yet he includes a statement such as the one I quoted.

We don’t “know” a single thing about how the cosmos was created or how it “evolved” to its current state. We cannot know. None of us were there.

We can make inferences based on observation, and make theories according to those inferences. But that’s just a fancy way of saying “guesswork.”

I am personally convinced that we humans don’t know squat about the world around us. And that most of what we think we know is just plain wrong.

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A return to human time

12/19/2008 at 6:13 pm (thoughts)

One of the things that I fervently hoped would happen as a result of my new job would be that the pace of our lives would slow down again.

And it has, and I am so immensely pleased.

Let me ramble on a bit about it.

When we lived in Missouri, it seemed as time went sooo slow. Days lasted forever. We were rarely ever rushed. We lived there for only a year, but it honestly seemed almost an eternity. It was great.

Then I got the fool notion that I wanted to be a photographer again. And I got a job at the paper here and that sense of slow time vanished.

We moved here in September 2005 and I left the paper July 2008. Those three years of my life are gone and they flew by like the blink of an eye. We never had time for anything, it was always on to the next thing.

I thought getting out of the paper would change things. The problem is that I went to work at a national chain drugstore. Things were just as hectic, just confined to a small retail space. My time flew by just as quickly. Never having enough time in the day. And I hated it.

But this new job is different. I am allowed ample time to complete all the tasks assigned to me. I work about three hours in the morning, and then I go home.

And that slow-paced lifestyle I yearned for has come back. I once again have time! That is such an amazing thing in our society today.

Folks today work so hard at turning all their time into money, and they don’t know what it is they’ve lost.

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12/14/2008 at 5:15 pm (thoughts)

I was browsing photographs today and I came across some photos someone shot through a telescope showing other galaxies.

And I was suddenly struck by a feeling of just how small and insignificant we and all our silly problems really are.

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Wood stove cookery

12/12/2008 at 7:07 am (food, thoughts)

I can’t explain it. But food tastes better when cooked on the wood stove.

People will say that I’m being sentimental or some such, but it is absolutely true.

Noel has been cooking my morning oatmeal on the stove for the past couple weeks. But a couple days back it was warm enough that we didn’t need to start a fire so she cooked my breakfast on our electric burner.

I could barely choke it down I kid you not. There is some difference.

And I think that maybe it has something to do with the whole slow food thing.

It takes longer to cook on the wood stove. And I think that that makes all the difference.

What have we lost food-wise in our ever constant quest for now now NOW!

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Gas prices

12/11/2008 at 7:18 am (thoughts)

Gas prices are down … way down.

But have you noticed that no other prices are dropping?

They said “Prices of everything must go up because fuel costs are going up!”

Now the fuel price has fallen dramatically and I don’t hear anyone talking about food prices doing the same.

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