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Monday, 27 May 2013

Catching Up

Hello faithful readers!

There's a lot going on here at Self Sufficiency.  As you probably figured, I'm giving up on trying to post every week.  All I can say is that the ideas generated through this blog are really gaining steam, and ironically they're drawing me off in pursuit of them . . . anyway, here's an update.

The Council Meeting I Attended.
As you will recall from my last post, I attended a council meeting recently armed with what I thought was a well-researched speech.  What happened, was, as I was sitting there waiting for my turn at the podium, I realized that I didn't have the clout to say the things that I wanted to say.  I ended up giving a condensed speech, highlighting my concerns about the planned industrial development and also emphasizing the asset value of viable farmland within pedestrian foot travel distance of town.  But it occurred to me that if I just gave my concerns as a locally known, freelance writer, they wouldn't be taken seriously.  Sounds timid, I know, but I realized that if I waited a year or so, (or until the bulldozers line up at the cornfields ) then I might be far enough along with Earthmama that my words would be given a little more credit.  I guess they call that having a platform, huh?  Anyway, with the grant that I'm researching for this type of business, it helps to have a letter of support from the municipality, and so I used the opportunity to convey my plans for Earthmama.  I guess what I learned from the experience is not to tip your hand too soon.  I established myself as a local advocate of sustainability, voiced my concerns, and that was as far as I got.

On my Buddy Old Pal Old Stephen Harper.
I'm going to take this opportunity to give the anti-capitalist perspective on Legoman Harper himself. Supposing for a second that I'm right, that the 1% is really a crooked organization who will stop at nothing to forward their own agendas, then it would stand to reason that the Prime Minister of Canada would be their puppet, or at the very least, would be put in place through their tactics. (Robocalls, anyone?)

In my opinion, Stephen Harper has demonstrated time and time again that this is indeed the case.  Take for example the protected waterways fiasco.  Now how could any decent human being have the balls to slide through a clause like that that only  benefits corporations at the expense of all the rest of us under the flimsy shrouding of an Omnibus Budget Bill?  Yet that is what he did, despite our objections.  For those of you living under a rock, (wake up!), in 2012, the Harper Conservatives enacted legislation that removes protections on protected waterways, effectively opening them up to pollution causing shipping traffic.  Of the ten thousand waterways in Canada that USED TO be protected, only a hundred or so remain.  What that means is that as the pola ice caps melt, the Harper Conservatives are actually taking the position that this is a GOOD thing in that it paves an easier access route for carbon emitting shipping.  Oh, and guess where the waterways that still maintained their protections are located?  Primarily in Conservative ridings. (For more info on this subject, please read a letter written by David Suzuki to Stephen Harper and signed by thousands of Canadians, myself included at
The proof is already in the pudding that Harper acts in the interest of big business, but is he really as corrupt as I make him out to be?  Well, let's examine the senat scandal.  In 2008, Harper handpicked three conservatives and placed them in the Senate.  These are:  Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy, and Brazeau.  Guess who's in hot water for being on the take?  Those three.  The three most recently appointed senators, the three dyed in the wool conservatives, well it looks like they got their cushy jobs handed to them on a silver platter and started dipping into the pot to fatten up their already inflated salaries, now doesn't it?  And then, to quiet down the scandal, Harper's chief of staff forks over a cheque to cover the expenses due back to constituents.  Only it turns out that OOPS!  That's kind of frowned upon as well, now isn't it?  The question of whether or not Harper had any knowledge of the events, kind of a no brainer given his absolute unmitigated failure to even acknowledge the concerns within his own caucus last week, aside, I heard him with my own two ears on the CBC radio the other day going on about how environmental concerns are butting heads with economic concerns and that for him, economic concerns will always trump environmental ones.
Well guess what, Stephen Harper?  The economy is a man-made CONSTRUCT!  It is not imperative to our survival.  The environment, on the other hand, is. 
If the economy fails, we live.  It'd be rough, but we'd survive.  If the environment becomes uninhabitable, we don't.  It's that simple.  Decimating the environment in the name of profit to keep the economy going is suicide.  Human beings, as acknowledged, are flawed creatures.  We make mistakes.  Therefore, if a man-made construct like the economy (read - capitalism) should be proven to be doing irreversible and potentially unsurvivable damage to the natural resources we depend on such as clean air and water and healthy food, the answer does not lie in doing even further damage to the environment through trade agreements with Europe and China.  The answer lies in abandoning the man-made disaster we call capitalism and starting from scratch, with a new paradigm for society based on valuing human life and our natural world and restoring harmony.  For more on this, please check out .  The piece is called Thinking About Revolution, and it's a really interesting read.


Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I feel that the best way forwards is for all of us to do as much as we can to become Self sufficient.  With that in mind, please enjoy some cheerful photos from

The Garden Patch
So to begin with, after I yanked out the old shrubberies (with some help - Thanks Ryan!) and my husband and I worked up all the soil, I cultivated my garden space into raised beds.  In keeping with some advice I learned off the internet, a good idea is supposed to be this:  You figure out the angle that the sun transverses your garden on, bisect that angle, and plant your rows perpendicular to it.  With that in mind, I accordingly dug up raised beds in rows along that angle.  The theory is that this way, the individual plants each get the maximum amount of sun in the day, because they aren't contending with each others' shadows.

Next, you fill in the trenches between the raised beds with straw :

and then you top the straw with mulch:
So in effect what you have is a raised row of soil to plant your garden in, with a coating of compost that holds moisture, keeping the roots of the plants damp while gradually breaking down and adding nutrients into the soil.  I'll keep you posted on how this all plays out over the summer, but for now, at the very least, it's giving me a nice cushy row of material to walk down as I'm out gardening in my bare feet, a place to step between the rows that I know is safe to walk on and won't damage any tender shoots.

Now, some things that came back from last year:
These are the wild vines that appeared in my garden last year that Google images assured me must be wild raspberry.  Acting on a hunch, I decided to leave them in just in case, reasoning that if they're really wild raspberry they'll bear fruit in year two, (this year.)  Well it looks like the little bastards are loaded with buds!  Stay tuned, I'll be waiting with baited breath to see what these develop into.

As you can see from this picture, the strawberry plants that I bought last year from a $1 sale bin, which bore fruit into November, came back.  I had broken the plant into two and put them in the garden in the fall, and here they are flowering already!  Can't wait to see the little red beauties, and will have to visit the thrift shop to pick up a weigh scale to wiegh their total yield for the year.

While not the clearest picture, this one shows the blueberries that I put in last year.  They're blossoming away, but I'm hearing on the radio lately that pesticide use in my area is decimating the bee population, so pollenation may not have occurred.  I'm looking into raising my own bees in the future, (I suffer from allergies, and I've heard that a good all natural remedy is to eat honey from bees that share your immediate environment) but so far my husband is not on board.  Oh well!
The Savings Thus far:
As you can probably tell, I've lost interest in tallying up the sandwiches savings.  Suffice it to say, on average we save around twenty dollars a week.  Most weeks, we save more than that, but in the interest of objectivity, I"m going to round it down and just put in $20.  My husband and I recently made a trade on the old barter system.  In our back yard, we had a useless old cast iron satellite dish that a friend of ours wanted to repurpose into a roof for a gazebo.  Meanwhile, in his backyard he had a swingset that his children had outgrown. My husband and I costed out swingsets and had figured out that we'd have to spend around five hundred bucks to get one for our kids that they'd actually use, but instead we were able to trade!  We took down the dish, they took apart the swingset, and we swapped!  We threw in a case of beer for them on top, since their item was worth more, but I'll trade the case of beer for the taxes we'd have paid and call it a wash.  Given these adjustments, our total is now:

Savings So Far:
Last post's total:                640.87
swingset                            500.00
sandwiches x6 weeks        120.00
cosmetics *                          40.00
Total                                 1300.87

*I found a dirt cheap recipe online for making sunscreen, so I've added another ten dollar monthly savings here.
The recipe is easy, and I only had to buy zinc oxide, which my pharmacist ordered for me directly very inexpensively.  the other ingredients I already had. Take care!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

First let me say that it's been really busy at my house.  Because of my business idea, and the location I have in mind to make it a reality (which is within pedestrian foot travel distance of a major urban centre and therefore fits within my committment to reducing carbon emissions) I became aware of a plan put in place by the council of the municipality where I live that effects my location.  Basically, because this area is starving for jobs, the council is trying to rush through infrastructure expansions of water and sewer servicing to incorporate agricultural lands.
They're doing this to package up these farmlands and make them attractive to supply companies for the oil sands. The problem is, they don't seem to realize that big industry (which the oil sands is part of) is fickle.  I don't want to see council spend a boatload of money to prime up these lands for industrial development, since as we are all too aware in this region, in the global economy, supply companies such as these are notoriously short lived.
All any other company anywhere else in the world has to do is undercut the price of the supply company, and big industry moves on.  Since I want my area to forget about the global economy and concentrate on ways of making our own area self sufficient, I have requested and been granted the opportunity to address council this coming Monday regarding my concerns.  Since it is important to me that my concerns be taken seriously, I have been hard at work preparing my case, which explains the delay in my posts.  Here in a nutshell is my speech:

Hello Mayor and Councillors.


I’m here today to urge council not to allow development of agricultural land on the outskirts of (omitted).  I’m talking about the rumoured industrial expansion planned for the “(Omitted) Area” as well as the rumoured development of subdivisions on the south end of the (omitted) area.

In the near future, it’s my belief that you’re going to see a turning inwards when it comes to local economies.  As more and more municipalities realize that an economic system that relies on environmentally damaging shipping, (and holds the consumer at the mercy of inflated fuel prices in order to pay for all that shipping), you’re going to see a discontinuing of interest in participating in the Global economy.  The wave of the future in food production, for example, is going to be local agri-business feeding local demand.  It just makes sense, cost-wise, because you eliminate the cost of all that shipping.  In the Global Market, it’s all too easy for big manufacturers to mass-produce and synthetically preserve food and to ship it all over the world, but because of the long life span needed for these products to travel great distances, very little of the actual nutrition remains.  But the far greater problem is the carbon emissions released by the process.

I come from a farm family, and I don’t have to tell members of this council that anyone who grew a corn crop this year in (omitted) was laughing all the way to the bank.  The sobering truth, though, is that local farmers reaped this advantage because of the climate change effects facing our neighbors to the (omitted).  These climate changing effects are the direct result of carbon emissions.

I have heard it said at the (omitted) Council Meeting recently that Commercial interest exists in the form of Oil Sands supplier companies to put in industrial businesses, provided water and sewer servicing are put in place.  Putting that servicing in is a huge cost to the municipality.

I’ve worked in manufacturing in this area for twelve years, most recently in the Parts department of an automotive plant.  I resigned from there in October.  Like automakers, the Oil sands are big industry, and as we are all too familiar in these parts, Big industry is fickle.  The Global Market is a very difficult place for small municipalities to succeed.  What happens is, municipalities go to the work and expense of installing infrastructure to make themselves attractive to Big Industry supply companies, hoping to secure long-term employment for their residents.   The simple truth, however, is that Big Industry doesn’t stick around.  In the global market, it is all too easy for another company, anywhere in the world, to undercut the cost of production operations of that supplier, and once that happens, they’re gone.  They’re like the alien races that populated the movies of my childhood: once they have swooped down on an area and taken every scrap of available funding and resources that they can get access to and turned them into profit for themselves, big industry moves on.  
In big industry, it is all too common for a supplier company to be dropped without notice, while another company that offers even the smallest price advantage, takes its place.  A thought is not paid to the jobs of the people that worked there.  Those jobs go into the toilet, and so do all of the resources that municipalities have ponied up in order for those plants to be built in the first place.

I know that there are boundary lines that divide municipalities into neat little parcels of land with separate costs and separate operating systems and objectives from each other, but the time for thinking in terms of these boundaries has passed.  Regardless of boundaries, when you push resources outwards from the centre of an urban population, you bankrupt that centre.  That’s what’s been going around here for the last twenty years, which means that for the densely populated downtown area, those people are going to have a hell of a walk to get to a place where they can grow enough food to feed themselves in the event of a fuel shortage, or to turn it around, before they can get to an agri-business situated on recreational pedestrian access routes to buy local food which is the way of the future that this municipality is, wisely I think, promoting.   

I have seen first-hand the damaging impact of toxic industrial runoff that trickles off factory parking lots after it rains.  Every year the dead lawn around the plant where I worked just gets ripped off and re-sodded, and while in their situation, it may be permissible to think of green spaces as disposable commodities, here in this municipality, it’s not.  I’m here to urge council to put on hold any plans for development in these two areas, whether its subdivisions to the south or supply companies for big industry to the north.  The currency of the future is not going to be measured in dollars and cents.  It’s going to be measured in resources, and viable farmland within pedestrian foot travel distance of a major urban population is going to be worth its weight in gold. 

 The writing is on the wall that the time has come for turning inwards.  Municipalities that want to be forward looking are going to have to concentrate on the promotion of businesses that look to the local economy, that ship to the internal economy only, not on businesses that export goods to the greater global market with all of the carbon emitting transport truck traffic that entails. 

To build a new industrial facility or subdivision requires truckloads and truckloads of goods being shipped to that area.  This municipality, sitting on the shores of one of the world's largest fresh water supplies, does not need any more unnecessary transport truck traffic.  That run-off makes its way to the Lakes that we all depend on in this area for tourism, not to mention drinking water.   Personally, I’d like to see a policy put in place where no new facilities could be built until it can be proven that an existing structure can’t be found within a thirty-kilometer radius that could be modified to fit the intended purpose.   That would be a resource-friendly policy that I would love to see this council adopt.  Empty homes and vacant industrial land this area has in spades.  Viable farm land accessible on foot it does not.

When an area relies on food that is shipped in from other places, it becomes very vulnerable in the event of fuel price gouging, for example, or any of the myriad of issues plaguing farmers today.  In the event of that type of price situation, how are the parents of this area going to feed their kids?  Betting on big industry is betting on a losing horse.  This municipality is in the position to be very cutting edge in terms of its objectives for the future.  The old ways of resource consumption in pursuit of the elusive dollar have got to stop.  Resource conservation is the key to the future.  This area has the advantage of the new Environmental Committee, which I am greatly interested in joining after June when my schedule frees up again.  Why not task them with investigating some of these options?

In conclusion, I'm here today as a mother of young children.  My reasons for being here are staring me in the face every day, and protecting what’s left of our resources for them is something that I feel I have no choice but to advocate for.  God knows if they’re anything like their mom, they’ll be holding me to account in ten years for why I didn’t do more to protect things for them if I don’t, and so I guess I better take it on.  That goes for everything from protecting the water quality of our lakes to protecting clean air to building and growing a better food supply.  On behalf of them, I’d like to ask you not to sell those lands short.  Subdivisions don’t feed cities.  Concrete parking lots don’t feed cities.  Farmers feed cities. 

Thank you.

So that's the speech I'm taking to council in two day's time.  Unfortunately, I've had to resign from my local newspaper's staff in order to go out on a limb with such a radical viewpoint of concern for the climate.  How telling it is that a stance such as this one, which to my way of thinking, only makes concrete sense, does not fit within the confines of a mainstream (corporate owned) media company.  My thoughts have been with you, dear readers, and I apologize for the delay, but as this has arisen out of the principles of my blog, Self Sufficiency, I hope you'll bear with me.  I'll keep you posted on this story as it develops.

Garden Patch Update

Here is a shot of my seedlings.  In Clockwise order, they are: asparagras, day phlox, delphineums, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, cherry tomatoes, calendula flowers, and peppers.  We've had a real run of cloudy weather hereabouts, so I'm a little concerned that they're going to get 'leggy' which the internet tells me is not good for growth or yield.  Come on sunshine!

Here's a shot of my delphineums up close.  Most of them are on their third of the secondary leaves. 

Here's a shot of my tomatoes up close.  While I think they're doing fabulously well overall, you can see how long the stems are getting.  I hope they're getting enough light!

Sandwiches Update
March 28th total:          $471.02
Week 1 sandwiches           40.27
Week 2 (sorry!)                 19.58
April cosmetics                  30.00
Two gifts *                         80.00
Total                                $640.87

*I have been to two family occasions in the past two weeks, and have taken home-made gifts of in one case, knitted baby items, and in the other,  a homemade batch of working man's hand salve.  Because in so doing I saved myself the cost of purchasing a gift, which I ordinarily would have spent around $40 on, I'm adding eighty dollars to my total for April.
Hope you are well!

Friday, 29 March 2013

My Business Idea

Hi folks

Today I'm going to tell you about an idea that I had recently for a business, particularly as the idea arose out of the things I've been discovering through the course of this blog.  
My idea is to start a not-for-profit business designed to help low-income moms provide their kids with healthy food.  I picture a ten-acre plot of land subdivided into little 'crops' of vegetables such as green beans, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and squash.  The first year, the vegetables will be sold fresh in a roadside stand.  The second year, we'll get into canning.
The building will feature a childcare facility.  This is critical in that in order to be a source of additional income to low-income  moms, paying for childcare can't be a requirement.  The way it will work is this: as with any farm operation there is a certain amout of work to be done with each kind of vegetable, for example, weeding or transplanting seedlings.  The work to be done will be divided up into worklots, and as each person comes to do work, they will earn money based on how many work lots they complete.  I feel this system will enable people in need, particularly low income moms, since studies have shown that single mothers and their children are amongst the most disadvantaged in Canada, to come down for two or three hours and leave their children in a well-staffed daycare so that they can work for a few hours and take home a little money when they leave.
The additional advantage, of course, is that they can also take home a basket of healthy vegetables to feed to their family.
The reason I feel this type of business is important is because the way that Canadians currently purchase vegetables, well, stinks.  The vegetables and fruits we buy as 'fresh produce' in grocery stores have been shipped all over the world.  They've been chemically treated to withstand that long journey and still look 'pretty' to consumers, but they contain very little actual nutritional value.
With canned vegetables, it's even worse because of the preservatives that are added to prolong the shelf life of all that shipping.
As readers of Self Sufficiency will know, I am not a fan of carbon - emitting transport truck traffic that all this shipping entails, so my goal is to build a business that takes over the vegetable sourcing in my area.  I don't want to ship elsewhere, I just want to provide a local, healthy option for struggling families (and provide them with a place where they can earn a little extra income if things get tight without having to pay for childcare.)
This idea is in the beginning stages right now, but the working title I'm thinking of calling it is "Earth Mama."   Follow me as I document my journey towards making it a reality on my blog.

Garden Patch Update
Cabbage week 1
These are just-sprouted cabbage seeds, they'll be going in my garden as soon as the danger of frost has passed.

Calendula week 1
Calendula flowers, once dried, are an excellent addition to home-made balms and soothing lotions, as well as a co-habitating plant to grow with tomatoes to keep pests away.

Tomatoes week one
Check out how much these babies have grown in one week!:

Tomatoes week two - The secondary leaves are in and going strong!

Delphineums week one

Delphineums week two- The leaves are much bigger and new growth is arriving every day.

Sandwiches update:
Last week's total -          $438.77
Sandwiches savings -         32.25
Total -                                471.02

In addition, I attended an anniversary party in the family last weekend and took as a gift a batch of my homemade lotion, which I had prepared and poured into a glass candy dish with a lid that I purchased from a consignment shop.  The total I spent was under $2.  The couple seemed pleased with the gift, anyways as much so as if I'd have purchased a store-bought bath set, so I'm going to add another $25 to my savings column as I ordinarily would have spent at least that much, bringing my new total to


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Garden Patch Update

Welcome to Spring!
Ok, so I'm a little early, but surely by the time some of you read this it will be on or after March 21st, the first official day of Spring.  I'm ready to catch you up on some of the exciting things that are happening in my seed cups.
I'll begin with an update on my asparagras.  When I last posted on their progress, they looked like this:
There were five shoots (plus one 'volunteer' day phlox) in one pot.  Since then, I've transplanted all six seedlings into pots of their own.  I'm happy to report, since the move, they're all doing well.  Three of the five asparagras shoots have even put up a second stalk:
It's tough to see, but if you look at the base of the stem, you'll see a second, delicate pale green stalk beginning to emerge.  After I transplanted them I also moved them to the sunniest place in the house, a directly south-facing patio door, to maximize their light exposure without the use of electrical means. 
Next, the story of my tomato plants.  I began by calling up a gentlemen that I'm acquainted with to ask if he could spare some seeds.  I've had some of his in other years and they've done better for me in terms of yields than any nursery-raised tomato 'starter' plant I've ever purchased.  What this gentleman does is keep the seeds from the best specimens his tomato crop produces every year and so over the course of several years, he has arrived at a very high-quality strain of tomato seeds that are also naturally organic.  He told me he'd be quite happy to send me some seeds, and sure enough, they soon arrived.  He sent me seeds for tomatoes and for cherry tomatoes and told me to start them in moist soil in a plastic container on top of my fridge.  The best part was, they were free!
I followed his instructions, re-using an old 'clamshell' style strawberry container - since these are not even recyclable in some municipalities, I advocate not purchasing them.  However, I also feel that once purchased, even one additional use such as this one is better than discarding them after the initial fruit that they contain is gone.  I plan to wash these trays and keep them for next year since they did an excellent job of starting the seeds.  Once they started to sprout, in order to keep track of what kind of seeds were what, I transferred the regular tomato seelings into re-purposed yogurt cups.
Just look at how well they're doing now.  They're in full sun, in yogurt cups with holes cut into the bottom of them, sitting in glass baking dishes.  I water them from the bottom by pouring into the baking dish.  That way the tiny roots that are forming draw the water from the ground-up, which is the way nature intended.  Supposedly this process will strengthen the root development, although this is something that I read on the Internet so take it with a grain of salt.
I separately sowed the cherry tomato seedlings in old toilet-paper rolls.  I cut them in half, then stood them up in the baking dish and filled them up with soil.  Then I poked a hole down into the soil with my finger and plopped the sprouted seedlings into it. 
As you can see, it's not a perfect system.  Some soil leaks out every time I bottom-water them, but the cardboard itself is said to be an acceptably bio-degradeable-enough material that you can plant the cardboard directly into the garden once the plants have hardened off.  Again, this suggestion comes to me courtesy of the internet, so we'll have to play that one by ear.
Another seed variety I've started is my blue delphineums.  I purchased the initial plant two summers ago in the $1 bin of a garden centre shortly before it closed for the season.  I love the flowers so much that I've kept the seeds for two years now and started my own plants from them each year.  This is what they look like in bloom:
I think they're just the most startlingly beautiful shade of blue and I want to spread them around my whole backyard.  I've also found that they make excellent mother's day or housewarming gifts if someone takes possession of their new home at the right time of year.  As I said, I've kept the seeds, and this is what the ones I started about two weeks ago look like now:
You can see the first of the teeny-tiny secondary leaves have started to appear.  I'm having so much fun planning out my garden for this year and I just can't wait to see these beauties come into bloom.
In conclusion, while I'm getting some good results on the asparagras, tomato, delphineum, and phlox seedlings, nothing has come out of my strawberries.  (sigh!) 
All of the tiny plants above have cost me literally nothing to grow.  The containers are repurposed, the soil comes from a bag that was left behind by the previous owner of the house, and the light comes from the sun.  I've now also ordered additional seed packets from a seed catalogue, which should be arriving in the mail any time now.  They are: spinach, calendula flower (good for relaxation when used in DIY lotion recipes), red cabbage, peppers, lettuce, green onion, carrots, and some others.  I'll keep you updated on how these seeds develop once I recieve them, but for now, take care, and thanks for reading.

Sandwiches update
Last posted total -        $367.43
sandwiches savings          71.44
Total                             $438.77

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Aah, the Good Life

Hello folks, and welcome to this week's post.
It's late at night, and I'm sitting by myself.  I have just cracked a beer open to celebrate, because tonight, I finished the first draft of my novel.  It weighs in at 118,000 words, which is somewhat longer than the minimum 50,000 word requirement to qualify as a novel.  It's three hundred and fifty four pages of double-spaced, eleven-point-font, and I am uncomplicatedly proud, because it is proof of what one can accomplish if one sets aside the demands of the Rat Race (they aren't our demands, after all) to focus on what makes one happy.
In my case, it's writing, well that and giving the giant middle finger to entrenched elites.  Happily, I've been able to incorporate both in my novel.  I would never have been able to finish it by now if I hadn't have given up my job, and man, what a great time I've been having since I did.
It's bliss.  Living this way, with the freedom to do whatever it is that your heart wishes to do, is the true definition of joy.  I won't let it be said that I didn't put the work in.  I scrimped and I saved and I made my husband sometimes use no-name household cleaning products, but it was all worth it, because I was able to save enough money to buy myself the freedom of a year to set after my dreams, and what a liberating feeling it is to have done it.  Well, draft one, at any rate.
I remember, back in the days of heavy steel-toed boots and uncompromising adherence to schedules, how I used to walk down to my spot, the vacant land at the end of my road, and look up at the sky and think, if I could just finish my novel, I could quit this dang job and get on with my life. 
I remember, too, how the answer came back to me: Quit your job, and it will come.
It was a scary thing to contemplate, giving up the security of benefits and a regular paycheck.  But somehow, it was scarier not to think about it, to picture the long years of my future stretching out in front of me with nothing but the endless metal aisleways of that hulking factory to look forward to, well those and the five minutes of happiness a week when I opened my pay stub.
That same week a wise man named Joe said to me while we leaned over car roofs and scrubbed away at metal blemishes, he said "You know, the advantage of this type of job is that it gives you eight hours a day of uninterrupted thinking time.  You can solve whatever problem you have in that time if you just put your mind to it."
He was right.  It took me a year of studiously paying down debts and weaning myself off of the paycheck by taking as many leave of absence days off as I could.  I remember a conversation with a guy named Paul in the parts department where he asked about my time off requests, "How do you do it?" "I just stopped caring about money," I told him, and I realized in that moment that it was true.  I had come to the conclusion that if I wasn't working, I wouldn't need daycare, and if I didn't need daycare, I didn't need a job.
I've been free ever since, and that thought that popped into my mind has come true: if you quit, it will come, and it has.  I don't know if this novel will ever amount to anything.  All I know is that on my deathbed, when I look back at my life, I'll be able to say I went after my dreams.
Savings Update
Last week's total - $321.14
Savings this week - $46.29
Total thus far   --   $367.43

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

My First Homemade Balm

Hi guys, and welcome to this week's blog.  I'm quite excited to share my week's adventures with you.  As part of my pledge to get rid of commercially produced beauty products, I made my first lip balm and body lotion!
It started with the purchase of my new favorite substance - Coconut oil!  For those of you who have not heard of the many wonderful uses for coconut oil, you've simply got to get some.  The one I ended up purchasing in the organic food section of my local grocery store was $6.99 for a 414ml jar, but I'm told you can get it cheaper at Costco. 
I had read a little bit about it on the internet and knew it had some benefits, but I was in no way prepared to fall head-over-heels in love with the stuff like I have.  It is quite simply the most amazing thing I've ever seen.  For instance - As a lip balm, on it's own, right out of the jar, it is incredibly moisturizing.  As a facial moisturizer, it works wonders, and when rubbed in a thin layer over your hands and worked through the ends of your hair, it settles out frizz like you wouldn't believe - at a fraction of the cost of expensive serums!
I'm pleased to report that I will no longer be purchasing face cream.  One week of using straight coconut oil and I'm hooked.  (I'm doing oil cleansing for my face now too but more on that later).  In addition to the coconut oil, I also purchased 3.18 pounds of raw beeswax at my local apiary for $19.03 and five pounds of unrefined shea butter from a lady I found on kijiji for $25.
With those ingredients and some others that I had on hand, I was able to make two products, lip balm and lotion. Here's how it works:

I started by rounding up some old jars and containers that I had and dumping out their contents.  Then I washed them and put them in a pot to boil to sterilize them.  Next, I found my preferred recipes online.  I went to, but you can find recipes anywhere.
The next step was mixing my ingredients - in the case of the lip balm, equal parts beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil - in a glass jar sat in a pot of lightly simmering water.  (I'll tell you more about the body lotion next week).  This took about fifteen minutes, and if you live in an area with on-peak hydro pricing, I recommend doing it after 7 if you're going to try it.  I soon had a good jarful of liquid lip balm which I poured into my prepared containers.  Out of 1 tablespoon of each of my ingredients, I made three little pots of lip balm plus one ginormous tin for myself out of a repurposed mints container. 
For my own, because I wanted a little colour, I mixed in cocoa and cinnamon.  I had read it was possible to tint your balm with these ingredients, and you can see that it is - a bit - but I erred on the side of caution in this case.  The balm feels heavenly on my lips, and without the addition of spices, the balm goes on colourlessly. For my three pots, plus the tin for myself which you can see in the photo holds a quite substantial amount, the cost of production was :
1 tbsp shea butter @5.00/lb  - $0.16
1 tbsp beeswax  @5.99/lb     - $0.19
15ml coconut oil @$7/414ml-$0.26
total                                        $0.51
Fifty one cents!  Can you believe that?  And the products are all natural and not chemically refined.  In comparison, I went to the grocery store and priced out an 'all-natural' lip balm, (which you can see from the packaging is anything but) and the cost for one unit was $4.29
Now if you'll permit me to vent for a moment, I'd like to draw your attention to something.  This product, with it's mellow-looking packaging and it's carefully eco-friendly looking branding, makes some pretty preposterous claims.  If we zoom in a little closer, we see that it says it's
"100 % natural and 95% organic."  While the substance contained in all this packaging may, in fact, be all it's hyped up to be (although dang it, it occurs to me now that a good idea would have been to take a quick photo of the ingredients list before the already mystified-looking sales lady dialled security, but hey, this blog is a learning process), you can see that it's packaged in materials that are clearly not any of those things.  Ladies and gentlemen, what you're looking at is a number 5 plastic shell and a polyurethane blister pack on a product that claims to be all natural and organic.  This is the kind of B.S. marketing that I think our government should be cracking down on, because people that genuinely want to use natural products that don't harm the environment can be misled by claims such as these.
I, on the other hand, have an ample supply of lip balm that works better than any I've ever had plus three other pots to give to my friends, all at the cost of fifty-one cents.
Now seeing as how by switching to coconut oil I've eliminated the purchase of face cream from my monthly shopping bill, and seeing as the one I've been using for years costs $22.99, I'm going to add that number to my previous figure of $30 in haircare products and give you my new monthly savings total:
On top of whatever else I've been saving, beginning March 1, I'm saving fifty-two bucks per month off my personal hygiene routine.  For March, because I spent around fifty bucks on my new favorite ingredients, I'll call it a wash and only add my sandwiches savings for this week

to the previous total of


to arrive at a new total of


Seeing as how I've got tons of beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil left, and seeing as how and other sites have tons of recipes for DIY products you can make at home, stay tuned next week to see what I'm trying next.  As they used to say in the Reader's Digest when I was growing up, (which annoyingly pops into my head for some reason more often than I care to admit),
"And how was your week?"

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Gift From the Heart

Today I'm going to talk about my new hobby - knitting! It began as part of my physiotherapy for my hand. Because of repetitive damage from factory work, and the terrible result of an operation I had to try to correct it, I have permanent damage to my right hand. I have problems with pinching and gripping, among other things, and so one of the things I've been doing to strengthen these motions is light knitting. It' slow going. I often can only manage a few rows a night, and my hand aches something fierce, but for small projects like toques or mittens it's not too bad. I was making a hat for my husband when it occurred to me that his mother's birthday was coming up, so I decided to knit her some mittens.

Now my mother-in-law and I haven't always had the best of relationships. Things often deteriorate into not speaking whenever we try to discuss our differences, but this year my New Year's resolution is to hold out the olive branch. With her birthday approaching, I thought to myself, 'wouldn't it be great if I could show her I care about her by making something heartfelt for her birthday - and save myself the fifty bucks or so I would have spent wandering around the mall looking for an impersonal item to purchase for her in the process?

I know she enjoys going for long winter walks with her friend, and that's why I hit on the idea of the mittens. To make them really warm, I decided I would first knit them and then line them with fabric, and to make them really special I decided to use a piece of one of my children's most-used baby blankets. I figured that way, when she's out walking, she'll feel the softness of that fabric and absorb the feeling of nostalgia that comes from touching clothing worn by someone you love very much.
She was pretty quiet when she opened them, but I could tell she was pleased just the same. My hope is that while she's out walking, the softness of that fabric might just make her think about the fact that our differences aren't really so great, as I had time to reflect during the long process of knitting them. And if not, since I already had the wool and material I used to make her mittens, it's still another fifty bucks I'm recording in the savings department.

Sandwiches Update
On Feb. 6th I last updated this column, and so I have two weeks' lunch savings to record as well as the fifty dollars I saved by hand making my mother-in-law's gift (not to mention the carbon emissions I saved by neglecting to purchase a commercially made item.)

Feb. 6th Total:                  207.67
Feb. 13th Lunch Savings    19.81
Feb. 20th Lunch Savings    26.44
Birthday Gift                       50.00
New Total                        303 .92

As you can see, I've cut more than $300 bucks from our expenses so far this year.  A little Self Sufficiency goes a long way!

The Self-Sufficiency Objection
If you are not interested in the Government's Proposed Medical Marihuana Amendments, please feel free to skip.  If you are interested, please copy this text and paste it into an email addressed to

Dear Sir or Madam:
I object to your proposed amendments for the following reasons:

1. From a climate perspective, you're proposing to transform what is essentially a cottage industry (in which the people that actually use the product grow it in their own backyards) and turn it into a commercial venture, with all the resource burning that entails: construction of facilities, packaging materials, transport truck freighting of supplies, etc.  If growing it inside homes is such a concern, why not just make that part illegal and let them grow it outdoors?

2. From a socioeconomic perspective, you propose taking one hundred and sixty six million dollars from one of society's most disadvantaged people (those with chronic pain and illness) and giving it to commercial businesses, an increase in cost to them from the current $1.80 to the projected $8.80 over the next few years, yet another expample of a government body putting business interest over that of citizens. 

3. From a civil libertarian perspective, you're going to open up a substance that has acknowledged medical benefit to commercial businesses to profit from but you won't allow the average citizen to grow it in their own backyard for personal use?

4. You open up a public comment period and do the absolute minimum to inform people that it's open, and then you publish a document so crammed full of legal jargon that the task of reading through it is onerous enough that all but the most determined will be deterred from even finishing it?  (another attempt to exclude the noneducated underclass from the discussion or a known tactic for steamrolling your own agendas through?)

5. And finally, you contend that the risk of hazards associated with indoor growing and the threat of the substance making it's way to the illicit market are your justifications for the above?  If the government just removed the sanction on outdoor marijuana growing for personal use the rest of the problems you articulate disappear.  The street value drops, thereby reducing the profitability of indoor grow ops to the point that they no longer are worth the risk.  The cost of administering the MMPR is eliminated and the climate is spared the carbon emitting transport truck traffic of building and operating yet another unneccessary commercial industry.

My objection to your proposed amendments is this: stop putting commercial interests ahead of the climate.  Growing plants for personal use in one's backyard is by far the lesser of two evils if the alternative is one more wasteful, resource-burning industry created in the name of profit for business.