:Another ghost…

My grandmother seems to be right at my side the past few months. She’s been dead for years, but she’s here. The old cliche “I’ve become my mother” has changed for me. I’ve become my grandmother. She was a young bride in the Great Depression. Her skills as a homemaker developed long before TV dinners. My grandparents kept a vegetable garden, maintained an apple orchard. Grandma was the ultimate recycler, not because she wanted to save the earth, but because she saw the fundamental value in items tossed these days without a second thought.




This summer after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Rick and I began a mission to eat local food. It was a little late in the season, but we bought a bit from the Farmer’s Market. Rick now asks about the produce in the grocery store. Where is it grown? We bought a chest freezer. We purchased a Food Saver and began freezing locally grown, fresh vegetables. I picked wild raspberries on our property. I started research on growing vegetables way up here…both Carol and Fred grew tomatoes this yeaar. I have a tentative design for a couple of raised beds artfully placed within the housedog yard.


This was all before the economy tanked. Thanks to podcasts, I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about global economics, credit default swaps et. al. One economist summed up in simple terms, “the world has too much debt.” I could go on, but I won’t. This blog entry isn’t about the sorry state of monetary affairs, it’s about my ghost. My welcome ghost.

My grandmother saved everything, all neatly organized, stored for daily use. Rubber bands. Bread bags. Paper bags. She made quilts. She bought adult coats at the Methodist Church’s annual rummage sale. She took those coats apart and redesigned them into winter coats for me and my sisters. She crocheted pretty things. She embroidered pillow cases. She blanket-stitched the edges of sheets, towels, washclothes. And, of course, she prepared food grown in her garden, scrambled eggs laid by their chickens. She taught me how to sew, embroider, crochet. She taught my sister Lori how to cook.  


These past weeks I’ve begun saving all plastic bags, all rubber bands, all paper sacks…just in case, her ghost tells me. Last Friday I shopped at Goodwill, purchasing six cotton shirts for everyday wear, along with a royal blue dress jacket, trimmed with black piping of sorts, to add to my dog show clothes. My sewing machine has been out for months, sitting on a desk made by some relative of grandma. Rather than ordering new smocks for work, this weekend I’m digging out my smocks in need of repair. I’ve been drinking beer instead of wine. Not a tip from grandma! She was a tea-totaler!

Am I nuts? Given the state of affairs, have the rest of you made any adjustments in lifestyle?

4 Comments on “:Another ghost…”

  1. Nuts? No, I don’t think so. “Recycling” has been practiced for literally decades upon decades in our family as well. As poor dirt farmers in Kansas and Colorado during the Depression and then the Dust Bowl, literally everything was saved and reused. I can remember my Grandfather saying, “You need to save an item for at least seven years. And if you don’t use it in that first seven years, you save it another seven years … just in case!”

    Loveland has one of the best curbside recycling programs in the States, making it easy to participate … and lessens “landfill guilt.” We also have a FoodSaver and put in our own garden each year. House, garden and yard wastes (no meat or dairy) are composted and then turned back into the garden for nutrients. Landscaping plants are most often chosen based on their water requirements with xeriscaping being given top priority.

    We ditched the plastic grocery bags and now use either paper or the reusable cloth-type bags purchased for less than a buck a piece. They hang on a hook in the garage so we can grab them on our way to the store. Paper grocery sacks are doubled up, top folded down 1-2 inches and used under the kitchen sink for trash. Highly recommend this site … http://www.reusablebags.com … for information and eco-friendly items.

    The few plastic sacks that make their way into the house are used for poop patrol and sending the litter box out weekly. Instead of buying the the expensive poo pick-up bags for traveling, I now use the bag that covers the newspaper. Extras are stuffed into a Kleenix box … something you’ve seen next to my x-pen at the dog shows and available for anyone to use.

    Don’t sew, but I try to buy good quality clothing (only when on sale and/or with a coupon) which is classic in style and which will be long wearing. It either gets worn out or donated to GoodWill or one of the other thrift charities.

    Started doing my own dog grooming years ago to save money … and recouped my equipment costs rather quickly. Speaking of grooming, dog hair is shipped off to a friend in WA who spins her own yarn.

    If I thought I could get away with it, I’d have chickens in the yard! However, Alan would probably turn me into the HOA at that point .

  2. Katy Widger says:

    I turned into my Grandmother long ago! She has always been my role model, even back in my teenage years. I wasn’t a “hippie”, per se, but was definitely into the “back to nature” movement.
    The Depression of the 30’s cost them the beautiful ranch my grandfather’s family had worked so hard to homestead and her motto became “Use it up. Make do. Do without.” And that has become my own, through necessity and choice.
    There are myriad ways we can all save, reuse, recycle, make do and do for ourselves, if we would but pay more attention to our own daily habits and perpetual wants and needs. I’ve been shopping at the Goodwill for many years and buy most of my daily work (and painting) clothes there, and almost all my “fancy dress up” clothes, there, too. And we began our move towards food self-sufficiency several years ago. The learning curve continues, but I’d say we’re either producing or obtaining locally at least 75% of our daily meals. Our whole focus in life has become to be more self-sufficient in every way.
    As more people become aware of the outright dangers that our food supply poses, with factory-farmed meat, milk and eggs fed on brewery and methanol waste and tons (literally!) of antibiotics and growth hormones to make up for lack of real nutrition, and food stuffs imported from China containing who only knows what kind of melamine and other industrial chemicals mascarading as protein (which don’t show up on the label), I’m certain that we will once again become a nation of self-sufficient, industrious, healthy, frugal people, generous in spirit and hopeful for a prosperous future.
    Way to go Debby and Rick! And, hey, I had to give up red wine years ago (it’s full of pesticides, anyway), but beer ain’t so bad! Try some Bohemia!

  3. lhasalhady says:

    Thanks Katy and Vickie for sharing. This subject won’t leave my mind… We’ve recycled since before we moved up here, almost 25 years ago. The food we’ve eaten surely came from BigAg, but Rick does cook from scratch. We’re making the transition to more ‘real food’, locally grown, which helps support the community. I’ve never been a big spender (although some might disagree given the dogs I maintain). Etc., etc., etc…

    It’s the values my grandmother represented, perhaps… She fit Katy’s description: self-sufficient, industrious, healthy, frugal people, generous in spirit. She created beautiful things with her hands. Surely, she saw the future through hopeful, prosperous eyes.

    That’s the part, I think, that’s bothering me. I don’t feel hopeful, given the current state of our economy. I feel discouraged. I’m paying the price for others’ greed and lack of vision. And, perhaps I should include myself. We refinanced our home in order to watch Nate compete at the out-of-state swim meets. Had we not done that, our home would almost be paid off. Rick is custom cabinet maker. I’m thankful for the small job he’s completing right, but for the first time there’s nothing else on the schedule. The housing market, of course, has hit rock bottom. I’m worried about being able to pay our mortgage payment should no other work surface.

    If Rick and I were more self-sufficient – like my grandparents were – maybe I’d feel less discouraged. Had that ol’ crystal ball been available, I would have started our food quest much earlier! It simply never entered my mind that two hard-working people might find themselves…concerned…worried.

    And when did our society become so greedy??! People trampling a department store employee to purchase cheap crap. With grandma over my shoulder, these kinds of thoughts occupy my mind. I’ll spare you more details.

    I do have a question regarding ‘putting up’ food. Our vegetables haven’t translated too well. Does the length of time blanching prior to freezing affect the consistency of the vegetables? Katy, how do you preserve the food you grow?

  4. pauline says:

    Hi Debbi,

    This will take you all over the place as your site does to me!!!!!

    About ticks–Rocky had one on him under his chin that came after many frezes and snow. The vet says we have winter ticks now!!!!!!

    Also–not because of the tick but he has lost over twenty percent of his normal weight in less than two months –all the tests are negative for whatever so we are trying to put weight on the boy!!!!

    About gardening–we have a veggie garden that usually is interfering with dog shows!!Things are ready to be picked in July, August and Septenber when I could be showing dogs.

    We also have a food saver(a life saver).

    Blanching your cleaned vegetables for one minute in boiling water, plunging them into ice water until cooled and then drain them well. Place them on cookie sheets in the freezer and then vacuum seal them.

    Same for berries –freeze them first and they will hold up better when put in the vacuum sealer. Keeps the juices in the berries rather than in the sealer tray!!!!!!

    About recycling–I have a cousin who lives in Hawaii–every year he sends aletter letting the family know what he is up to and last year he was into recycling–such as

    buy a jar of piclkes–when they are gone–buy a cucmber slice it into the pickle juice and walla

    more pickles.

    Can be done twice as after that the juice looses its potency!!!!

    He saves plastic bags from the grocery as he figures they will be collectors items in the Future!!!!!

    Bread tabs he uses for labelling wiring from stereos, computer etc writes what is on it and hangs it from the wire.

    When cooking in the oven—when he is done cooking he puts two large pots of cold weater in the oven and when he is done eating the dish water is heated to do dishes and also after dishes he uses it for flushing if needed!!!!!!!!

    Soap, oh yes bread tabs make good guitar pics!!!!!

    Tiny pieces of soap squished together make usable bars of soap.

    The pickle jar lids he uses as bases for the kickstand on his bike–it won’t sink in the sand when it’s parked!!!!!!!!

    On and on he goes!!!!!!!!

    Power strips for all appliances so he can turn off power and not pay for phantom electricity!!

    He has a book called the TIGHTWAD GAZXETTE the gives him ideas.

    How are the Gompa babies?????

    Must run as it is way past my bedtime!!!!


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