But Sometimes You Need to Buy Things

I’m tired of being told by advertisers and retailers when to shop, what to buy and what I need.

Stores filled with St-Valentine’s hearts in December, St-Patrick’s Day paraphernalia and plastic Easter baskets in mid-February, orange Halloween decorations in the summer, Christmas in September and mega-sales on bonafide holidays have driven me to spend my money elsewhere.

There’s nothing of quality in most the aforementioned holiday stuff. It’s all junk, made overseas, brought here by exhaust producing transport trucks and packaged in plastic. Once broken or used a couple of times, the garbage truck will bring the items to the dump where they won’t decompose or degrade for decades.

That’s a pretty grim reality for most things were buy.

The anti-consumerism movements that have taken off in recent years are amazing. And some are even retailer supported.

Patagonia, the California based outdoor clothing company, is encouraging people who own their clothing to repair and trade amongst themselves rather than buy new. There aren’t many retailers who support and encourage consumers to extend the life of their products.

And the Canadian who started Buy Nothing Day is a prince among thieves, in my opinion.

As a consumer who is aware of my carbon footprint, I buy a lot of pre-loved clothing, toys and wares, I upcycle furniture while maintaining a minimal impact, I don’t buy throw away goods and I reuse as much as I can.

The last few pieces of new clothing I can remember buying were maternity or pre-maternity. Since I only go to playgroups and paint stores now, I’ve mostly gotten away with it.

But when I realized that most of my clothing is ill-fitting, off season or paint stained, I decided it was time to shop for myself. I can’t wear my tight paint stained shorts during a Canadian January.

So we packed up for an outing to the mall today.

And, ouch.

I stood in front of the only retailer that I knew would have a few things that would fit, that I’d like, that would be reasonably price and that would get my kids home in time for lunch: The Gap.

Then I saw the sign: “50% Black Friday Sale”.

Sigh.

I went in anyways because outings with two young children in tow are difficult to manage. I went in because I desperately needed clothing, for myself. I went in because I didn’t go there expecting a sale. I went in because it was the Wednesday before Black Friday.

I bought a few things because I know my track record. I’ll repair them when they rip and the buttons fall off and, once I can’t repair them anymore, I’ll cut them into rags and use them to buff wax from my latest piece of furniture.

Because sometimes we need to buy things.

 

 

 

 

If a Three Year Old Can Do It…..

I had a proud crunchy mama moment the other day.

My three year old was sweeping the remains of her younger sister’s meal from off the floor and putting them in the dustpan.

She starting picking items out and making two piles.

“One is for the outside compost, the other is for the compost under the sink,” she said.

And sure enough, the fruit and vegetables bits were in one pile while the meat and bread with other.

(We compost vegetable, fruit and leaves for the garden but send all the other compostables to municipal composting heaven.)

The next time someone tells me composting is too complicated, I’ll have my daughter explain how it works.

 

Paper Cup Chaos

The media seems obsessed with the Starbucks paper cup controversy and causing people to rethink the meaning of Christams and the colour red.

What a crock.

The whole debated is trivial and cause for distraction.

If anyone honestly thinks that Starbucks has the power to insult Christmas, it’s time to get their head out of corporate asses

What’s offensive are the paper cups themselves.

They’re a burden on our environment, a waste of precious resources and a prime example of how lazy and wasteful we’ve become. It’s time to shift away from our throw away culture and invest in long(er) term goods and services.

Ditch the paper cups. Get a mug. A pretty red one 🙂

To the garden

Stepping through the doorway towards an abundant garden screaming to be harvested is a moment filled with childlike anticipation.

What treasures await? What has grown ripe in the hours since I last wandered that way? Will there be enough to fill our bellies tonight? 

Greeted by carrots, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers ready to fill my colander, and our plates tonight, I smiled.

The seeds and seedlings have all come to their full potential. 

I’ve waited all spring and summer for these moments. And they’re finally here.

Composting for Dummies

The compost bin has arrived!

I’ve been yearning for a backyard compost bin for years so this is a big thing in my life.

When I lived in an apartment, my friend suggested I put one on my 11th floor concrete balcony. I instead decided to wait until I had my own backyard.

The first house we bought was a cute townhouse with a backyard the size of a large swimming pool. It was in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood that managed to successfully ban clothes lines for a number of years. (That ban was finally overturned in 2008.)

A neighbourhood that fights against line drying isn’t going to be receptive to composting and I didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of the other homeowners.

Plus, we bought this home knowing that it was going to be a short term purchase.

Faced with three options, the choice was easy: move a big pile of rotting food, leave it for whomever buys our home or hold off on backyard composting.

So we waited.

Three years, and two babies, later we sold and moved to our forever home.

We upgraded our pool sized yard to a half acre. We ditched wall to wall neighbours for one neighbour and a farmer’s field. We moved to a place that never disallowed drying linens outside. We moved to a place where I could compost.

But we moved in November so I had to wait until spring.

Thanks in part to having months to scroll through Pinterest, I’d been secretly wanting a rustic DIY compost with two bins made of chicken wire and wood pallets. I could eventually put the chicken coop and bee hive nearby and tether the grass cutting goat on the side yard.

My husband does not share this vision. He’d be happier having nothing to with composting but he humours me.

So I was overjoyed when he went to the hardware store and picked up a compost bin.

It’s not the one from my Pinterest boards but it’s made from one hundred per cent recycled material so it’s okay by me. Compromise.

I assembled it and put it in the most compost friendly spot in the yard. It’s sunny and accessible and far away from our only adjacent neighbours.

I followed the instructions and layered twigs on the bottom to help with aeration. I then put a layer of “brown” or “dry” material, so mostly leaves. Then I layered the “green” or “wet” material, that’s where food stuff comes in.

Alternate green and brown waste. Et voilĂ . I’m a composting queen.

It’s pretty basic actually. We stick with the basics and only put fruit, vegetables, eggs and coffee grinds in the bin. I’m really good at the coffee grinds. Next year’s tomatoes are going to be coffee flavoured.

It’s surprisingly clean and totally odourless. It doesn’t even smell like coffee.

Despite our new found backyard composting ways, we are continuing with the city run composting program. We’ve been participating for a few years and it’s great. It takes items that are discouraged in our backyard compost: meat, oil, dairy, weeds and questionable leftovers.

We’ve been surprised by the amount of nighttime visitors our backyard receives. The local wildlife, probably raccoons, was getting the lid off the bin. I know that raccoon are clever but are they really able to lift the lid off that’s more than three feet off the ground? We must have really tall raccoons.

An impressive feat no doubt but not one that can be a regular occurrence. What raccoons don’t know is that we have an arsenal of bungee cord so I McGuyvered the lid and haven’t had an issues since.

With the pests at bay and the new routine of two separate compost bins figured out, all I have to do is wait until the old food turns to dirt. And dream about chicken coops and bee hives.

The Mystery of Unwanted Clothing

unravel

I think most of us are guilty of not giving a second thought to items we recycle, compost, sell or discard in the trash.

I certainly don’t ponder the fate of cans or boxes after they’re picked up by the recycling truck. I trust that they go off to the recycling plant and are crushed, melted or broken down before being turned into something shiny and useful.

But I am curious about the fate of textiles, particularly clothing. (And mattresses but that’s a topic for another day.)

I have a tendency to keep old ripped clothing that is unfit to be donated. I hope to do something magically crafty with it one day. I think it’s noble but apparently that makes me a bit of a hoarder.

One reason I do this is because I don’t know what else to do with it.

I won’t throw it out because it will sit in a landfill. I won’t donate it because it’s passing along broken junk that will probably get put in a landfill.

So it sits in a box in my basement next to my sewing machine that has had too little use.

I happily donate clothing that is in excellent condition. Those items will surely be sold or re-donated by the pre-loved clothing retailers or community services that receive them.

But what of the donated items that aren’t deemed good enough for that?

The old ripped shirts, sweaters with broken zippers, pants with worn pockets, socks that never found their mates and pajamas that have seen too many nights surely go somewhere.

But where?

Check out Unravel for some answers. It’s an award-winning short film about garment recycling and the workers behind the massive industry so many of us know little about.

It’s fascinating. Whether for good or bad, I’ll never think about donating clothing the same way again.

Happy viewing,

Jill

A Lesson in Proximity

I made it out to the Ottawa Farmer’s Market last Sunday for my annual spring pilgrimage.

It’s a yearly event followed by weekly or bi-weekly Sunday visits to peruse stalls, lazily wander about, chat with vendors, have breakfast under a shade tree, buy food for the week and be in the company of like-minded folk.

I wrote last week that I couldn’t wait to see how it evolved in it’s new location and I’m happy to say that it’s still the same lovely, abundant, cheerful and fresh market. I came home with bags full of wonderful products and a tired, happy toddler.

But something happened on the way.

I realized that our Sunday mornings would no longer be spent there.

Now it’s not anyone’s fault. We, both myself and the farmer’s market, moved in the last few months and it’s affected our relationship.

As I’ve moved more south, and further away from the city, it’s moved more north, and into the city’s heart. We’re breaking up because I can no longer justify driving 30 kilometres to buy fresh produce and local products.

Our lack of proximity is turning us into different people. As I’m evolving into a “country” girl, it’s going trendy.

As I’m pushing harder to stay local, it’s just gone too damn far.

I will miss the region’s best honey, fantastic locally made cheeses and the best raspberry scone ever baked but my new home borders farms, food producers and more local-to-me farmer’s markets.

Maybe one day this summer I’ll make the long trek downtown, struggle to find parking, sit in the shade under a concrete building and pick up that amazing honey, cheese and raspberry scone.

But until then, I’m going to spend my weekends exploring smaller farmer’s markets and producers that operate near the village that I live in.

I’m after community, outdoor space and local growers. It turns out that it’s all right in my new backyard!

And that makes me happy.

There are grains, cranberries, eggs, pork, lamb, vegetables, fruit, honey and many other wonderful things to discover…not to mention the Manotick, North Gower and Metcalfe Farmers Markets so close to home.

So let the season begin!

Adieu my beloved market, until we meet again,

Jill