Saturday, October 13, 2007

Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or do without.....

The anti-consumerist mantra. This short couplet is so dangerous and radical that it is surprising that it is not illegal. For one person, or even a few families to fall off the deep end of such a philosophical cliff is a small thing, but if this were taught in the schools, and if the actual skills were taught in the schools that would allow a new generation to implement this philosophy, it would turn the entire world economy on it's head because our world is built on waste, and our economy is built on consumption. This would cause huge economic dislocations, perhaps even a global depression for a time. If people followed, at least a little of Thoreau's admonition to simplify their lives it would be amazing.

Fortunately, I don't have much worry that the fearless American Consumer will change their ways anytime soon. But I believe in using things up, wearing them out.....

Not just anybody can actually live like this. You have to actually have some skills, some tools, and you have to look at the world differently than we are accustomed to looking at it.

Use-it-up: One of the coolest ways to do this is to use up the fruit that goes to waste locally. We have been fruit scavengers for years. We have a tree across the street that lives on a lot with an absentee landlord. Annie asked him early on if we could pick the apples from this tree. He said that would be fine. The tree produces fairly small apples that mature early in the summer and get quite mushy. We were told that the apples were not any good. Undeterred, Annie has made hundreds and hundreds of quarts of applesauce from this terrible tree. Some of our children have been able to take advantage of local unwanted fruit to make applesauce, and grape juice.

But you have to have the tools: Jars, pot big enough to use for a water bath canner, and for applesauce, you should really have a squeezo. You can find them at a better price from time to time, but the all metal ones are the best. Yes this costs money. Absent the squeezo you may can peeled and chunked apples. Season with sugar or splenda and cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Yum.

And how about zucchini? I know - you can only do so much zucchini bread, and you can only have so much in your freezer. But if you are making jelly, know that zucchini will let you stretch the expensive fruit quite a bit, and with a little jello for flavoring, pretty good jelly can be made with just zucchini, jello and sugar. I am a big fan of storing sugar as jelly and syrups. Not in total, but in a good part. Much more useable.

There are a lot of possibilities of using up the food is available locally. Crab apples make great jam and jelly, and I would like to try making apple juice one day. You need a cider press or a steam juicer for this.

Wear it out: Learn to sew, learn to work with wood and metal. Learn to weld. Learn to (Oh, gosh, this is supposed to be a family rated page....) work on and repair cars. Whew, the worst is over. Not only can you repair things around the house and hearth, but you can often find a cast away object that needs only a little glue and wire to make it almost as good as new. Get a meter and learn how to trouble shoot and repair some electrical devices..... You might not ever become the Maytag man or woman, but you can easily learn to repair lamp cords, plug-ins, and lights. I guess that in this section should be the exhortation to have some kind of skill that is a hands-on skill.

Make it do: Shine it up, clean it up, be humble enough not to foolishly go into debt for the latest model of anything. Buy good things when you do, and take good care of them.

Do without: Yikes!!!! What kind of radical doctrine is this? One book that had a great effect on me as I was growing up was 'Walden Pond'. Although time has given perspective to Thoreau's little treatise, and I don't think we could all do as he did, I think that mostly our lives are better when they are simpler, and when we pay attention to the important things in life. When we are following the Two Great Commandments, the cares and desires of the world fall away, and we find that we can do without a lot of things and still be happy.

But wait you say, isn't all this a lot of work? And pretty boring work too sometimes? Well, yes and no. It is a lot of work, but in times economic trouble - either de or in flation, what happens is that you can't buy stuff. Either you don't have the money because you either lost your job, or were demoted to a lower job in a deflation, or the money that you have isn't worth it's weight in toilet paper in an inflation. Either way, you are pretty much screwed. Wages never keep up with inflation, and in a deflation, no one has any money. So, as my under-the-coffee-table daughter sometimes says, 'there you have it'. And if you are doing to prosper, you will have to create wealth on your own. You can't continue to look to wages and the giant economy to meet all of your needs. I used to get very discouraged because overtime was so hard to get. And a few hours here or there made a big difference. But the bosses watched overtime hours like hawks watch baby chicks. The ones that cared the most were making at least twice as much as I was making. One remarked one day that he couldn't understand why everyone wanted to work overtime. He said that he would rather have the time off. Yeah. If I was making what he was making, I would want the time off too. When economies go south, business' pull back. They downsize, they are cheap with raises, they cut benefits. And you can't look for a raise, a promotion or a better job to get you by. Not that you shouldn't try for a better position, volunteer for the overtime, etc. Just don't count on it.


AnnieOfBlueGables said...

Yes, Friend. I used to laugh at our parents for washing the tinfoil and saving the zip lock baggies. But I do have fun saving old jeans and making them into new quilts. It is a fun skill to work on. I love you and am glad we have spent 33+ years together making do or doing without. It has been a fun adventure.

Mike said...

You mentioned tools to do some of this stuff. We have a bunch of jars if anybody wants some. I think we could give away 1/2 of what we have, and still never need any. Stop by...