Author Archives: SavvyChristine

Eco-friendly Things You Would Have Thought Had Already Been Invented

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This is a representative kazoo. This is not my kazoo.

I can’t believe that no one has thought of a bamboo kazoo yet.  I think I need one.  I had to get rid of my last kazoo once I found out it was moldy, and when mold may or may not cause the migraines, you tend to want to get rid of anything that’s moldy right away, especially something that is used directly in or on your airway (speaking of myself, of course.  Your moldy mileage may vary).  So I got rid of my fantastic, plastic, purple kazoo that lasted all the way back from when I was in the madrigals choir in high school.  It was a hardcore kazoo.  I bought it myself.  Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I cleaned it before donating it.

But I can’t bring myself to buy another plastic kazoo.  I can’t bring myself to spend actual dollars on new plastic.  Used plastic, sure — but I don’t want to buy a used kazoo that may also be from a moldy home.  Please.  I have standards here.

Enter bamboo kazoo.  It even rhymes!  Look at that marketing.

On Googling it, I found out there’s something called the Bamboo Kazoo, but it’s plastic and has something vaguely to do with religion?  I’m not sure.  It’s definitely not what I’m looking for.

Then there’s the How to Make a Wooden Kazoo instructions.  Add a point for being made of bamboo.  Subtract a point for using plastic wrap.

I see Melissa and Doug make a wooden kazoo.  It’s not bamboo.  Is it all wood, or is that red piece plastic?  I’m skeptical.  I’d have to try it out.

And there’s one lonely wood kazoo on Etsy, which most unfortunately does not have the distinctive kazoo shape, which is half the fun.  Although, come to think of it, this one would fit nicely in the breast pocket of a suit jacket, which is just where I’d keep mine so that Mr. Savvy and I could go to weddings and I could whip it out of his pocket and people would be surprised and ask me, “where do you keep a kazoo in that dress?”

Edit: My brother just walked by and told me that it’s called the Bamboo Kazoo because there’s a panda on it.  Clearly.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where this should be a Kickstarter project.  Image courtesy of Beige Alert.

The Shilling Hat

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It’s finished!  The Shilling hat is now available for Shilling Hat Pattern.  And here is the Ravelry link as well.  NOTE: It looks like I switched the charts around for the knitted flat and knitted round directions. If you downloaded the pattern prior to October 31, 2011, you’ll need to re-download the pattern for the updated version.  Thanks!

I designed this hat after watching the movie The King’s Speech one too many times, and falling in love all over again with the styles of the time period and the fashions of everyday people.  Can I help it that I’m all up in my vintage?  Don’t judge.

Mr. Savvy waited ever so patiently for me to finish this hat, and then to document it and photograph it and all those other things I did that are now safely ensconced in a post-knitting haze of finished object adrenaline.  Savvy’s very excited.  He’s a hat person.  Goodness knows what he has to be excited about since it’s the middle of August and it’ll be a long time before he gets to wear this… but don’t burst his bubble.

And now for the wooly details:

Together, we picked out a beautiful heathery rust color from the Cascade 220 Heathers line, which is a worsted weight wool.  The hat is knit on US size 4 and 6 (UK size 3.5 and 4) needles, and is sized for babies through adults.  I’ve charted the pattern, and written it for both flat knitters and knitters in the round, and while a beginner could knit it, advanced knitters won’t find it boring with its numerous cables and pattern changes.

And so my friends, have at it.  Let me know what you think, if  you have any questions, or if you find any mistakes.   I’m thrilled to finally release my knits into the wild.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I‘m a split infinitive kind of woman, and if you don’t believe me, you should check out my wedding vows. 

Library Love

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It has been weeks of boiling weather here, where walking around outside is like swimming through the muggy air and where the sun is so bright that my face is in a perpetual squint.  We’ve abandoned our midday walks in favor of evening swims, and my knitting projects have shrunk from shawls and blankets to hats and mittens (less wool to carry around, you see).

On these hottest days of the year, I retreat to the public library for the cool stillness that accompanies thousands of books.  Browsing the stacks carries with it a type of calm.  Maybe it’s because in the library, I’m welcome to take as much time as I’d like with the expectation that I’m going to come away happy.  A community service at its best.

Lately I’ve been working my way through the knitting shelves of the library’s collection, learning about yarn and pattern design.  I also grab some fiction books to read during my lunch break as I knit, coming away with four and five books per week and a few movies.  Mr. Savvy has his own stack, and between us,  we have books everywhere: spread across the table, tucked in the corner, lying beside the bed.   The books come and go.  We’ve developed a home library in constant flux — just the way I like it.

Libraries deserve our love.  In tough economic times, their number of customers goes up while their funding goes down as people realize it’s better to borrow than to buy.  Even the late fees (of which I’ve paid quite a bit) are worth it if it means resources are available to everyone.

I wasn’t going to write a post about something as ordinary as borrowing books, but then I read Yes! Magazine’s excellent manifesto on public libraries.  I realized that the library is one of the things we use in our community that makes me feel like a part of the community.  I bring home a little bit of that common feeling every time I come home with new reading material without breaking the bank.

Going to the library was a special treat when I was a kid because reading was so much an everyday occurrence for me.  I’ve carried that into my adult life, and I don’t think it will ever go away.  So tell me: how do you love your library?

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where books are as much a part of my family as my family is.  Er… does that make sense?

Vivobarefoot Venus at Six Weeks

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Six weeks have gone by since I received my pair of VIVOBAREFOOT Venus shoes, courtesy of the VIVOBAREFOOT marketing team.  I’ve worn them with no insoles all day, five days out of the week.  And without sounding too sycophantic, let me say it’s been six weeks of absolute comfort.  I love these shoes.

The Pros

These shoes are mary-jane style ballet flats.  They are cute.  They are comfortable — like running around barefoot, but more socially acceptable.  They are easy to put on and take off, and in the rain it takes at least a little while for your foot to become completely soaked.  They must have some sort of coating or lining to the canvas upper which does that.

When Lily and I go for walks at lunchtime, these shoes come with.  They traverse grassy land and concrete with ease, and I have never once felt out of place wearing these shoes at a work function.  This is why I wanted these Venus shoes and what these shoes are all about.

The Middle Ground

They have, however, a few peculiarities.  For one, the toe box is too short for my toes.  To be fair, just about every toe box is too short for my toes.  I have long toes.  However, the length of my toes is a problem in that I ordered a shoe one size too large.  There is a clear half-inch of space at my heel when I keep my toes touching the very front of the shoe.

I tried to remedy this fit issue by keeping the insole in the shoe.  It worked in that my heel wasn’t loose in the shoe, but with the insole in, the tops of my toes pressed against the underside of the top of the shoe rather uncomfortably.  So that didn’t work.

If I were to have ordered a size down, my toes would have been crunched against the front of the shoe.  There’s not a whole lot of room for foot comfort when your toes are crunched.  And the slightly shaped toe box ensures that my toes wouldn’t have been able to spread out.  So in the end, I’m happy to have bought a size up, even though my heel pops up occasionally out of the back of the shoe.

I admit, I was a little concerned about the strength of the elastics when I first tried on these shoes.  Those criss-crossed elastics in the front are super cute, but they are now perpetually twisted on one foot.  I take my shoes on an off so often that I don’t bother to correct the elastic and make it lie flat every time.  It’s not a real problem, just a minor annoyance.  Perhaps I can chalk this one up to user error.

As well, I can attribute the general dinginess of the white stripe around the bottom of the shoe to my lack of inclination to scrub my shoes.  This is one of those things that could go either way in that the shoe looks really sharp when the stripe is clean.   However, I think I’d prefer my shoes without the white stripe and not have to worry about it.

The Cons

And now for the durability: The inside stitching between the upper and the sole is showing a little wear.  Nothing’s coming unglued, and it may be a loose thread — I’ll keep an eye on it.  Six weeks is a little too early to tell if this is just one of those things or if this is a manufacturing issue, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

In addition, the dye on the front of the toes is fading slightly.  It’s barely noticeable unless you’re right up close — but again, at six weeks?  Hm…

And finally, you can see where my feet are wearing down the soles, particularly in the heel and the ball of the foot.  Not normally a problem, but with such a thin sole and only six weeks on the ground, I’m a little concerned.

Overall

Let’s go back to the caveat that I am hard on shoes.  I take them walking in the rain and tall grass and over rocky patches, I run around outside with the dog, and I wear them to work too.  I want them to do double duty, both work and play, and I’ve been wearing these shoes like they are the only pair of shoes I own.

So far, the Venus are falling slightly short BUT ONLY (and it is a big but) because my toes are so long which affects the fit.  If the fit was better for those of us with monkey toes, I don’t think I’d have a problem.  I could deal with the potential durability issues by treating my shoes nicer, by alternating out other shoes.  But fit is kind of a big deal, you know?

All in all, I like these shoes.  I like that they’re cute and minimalist, and I like that VIVOBAREFOOT offers sales every two months or so if you sign up for their email newsletter.  Their customer service has been phenomenal, and if you’re looking for an introduction into minimalist shoes, you could hardly look for a better company.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where if you look closely at the soles of my shoes, you can see I’ve been walking with more of a heel strike than a toe strike.  Whoops! 

First Impressions: Vivobarefoot Venus

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We’re coming in to spring now.  time to retire the winter boots (for the most part — curse you rainy weather!) and dig out the cute shoes.  The cute shoes go to work, or to visit my family, or to the library for just the right book to knit with.  They are not clunky.  They are light and breezy.  They look like spring.

Like these.

These are the Venus shoes from the newest line of VIVOBAREFOOT by Terra Plana.  What do you think?  I contacted VIVOBAREFOOT and asked if they would share a pair of shoes with me in exchange for a review on Simple Savvy, and they obliged.  I couldn’t be happier.

I asked VIVOBAREFOOT and not another company because VIVOBAREFOOT sells barefoot (or minimalist) shoes.  Barefoot shoes are shoes that are essentially the same as going barefoot.  Check out these soles.  They are 3mm thick.  There’s not a whole lot of rubber between me and the ground.

[As a quick introduction to barefoot and minimalist shoes, I'll tell you that research suggests that having less cushioning and support in shoes is better for your body and health.  If you want more information, check out Damien's blog, Adventure in Progress and the forum Toe Salad.  Damien hooked me onto minimalist shoes in 2009 when I began considering the impact of my posture on the migraines.  Which means I've been jonesing for shoes like these for two years.  So I'll get on to the review.]

These Venus shoes are cute — so cute that I squeed when I opened the box.  They don’t look anything like Vibram Fivefingers (VFFs), which is currently the most popular brand of minimalist shoes out there.  VFFs are toe shoes.  Mr. Savvy has a pair of VFFs, and every time we go someplace while he’s wearing them, someone stops us to ask about them, or people openly point and stare.  And while toe shoes have their place, I can’t wear them to work.  I want shoes that multitask!

As far as first impressions go, these Venus shoes fit the bill.  They look like most normal shoes, fashionable to the point where I can wear them with business casual clothes and not get funny looks.  I ordered the purple colorway, but the shoes that arrived are closer to gray, which is perfect.  They have a criss-crossed elastic over the top of the shoe to keep them on my foot, canvas sides, and a rubber sole.  The sole is extremely flexible, and there is a little stiffness where the sole meets the heel.

Their fit is a bit big — a half size big, according to their website — but for some reason, if I leave the removable insole in, my big toe brushes the front curve of the shoe.  I’m a size 10, so I ordered a women’s size 41, which is normally a size 10.  I expected them to be big.  I didn’t expect my big toe to be pushing against the front seam when I walk.

No worries — out come the removable insoles, leaving me with less cushion and fantastic ground feel, which is exactly what I wanted.  It feels like I’m walking barefoot, except with shoes on my feet.  I can’t feel the texture of the grass, but I can tell I’m walking on grass.  Ditto for my flagstone walkway and wood floors.

Unfortunately, without the insole, the shoes slide around a little.  I expect them to mold to my feet as I wear them more, and the sliding isn’t deterring me from wearing them, but that’s something to keep an eye on.  The seams on the inside are all finished, so no discomfort there.

In the day since I’ve owned these, my feet have worn a dusty outline on the shoes’ soles, leaving me with some concerns about durability.  Lily and I are hard on my shoes.  We went through a pair of (admittedly cheap) winter boots in six weeks.  I’ll be sure to watch that progress as well.

Overall, I’m pleased.  My feet stayed dry as I dashed through the downpours we’ve been getting.  I wore these shoes to work and no one noticed they were different from normal shoes until I pointed them out.  Score!  I’ll be sure to check back in a few weeks to see how things are coming along.

There are a lot of companies out there offering barefoot shoes of different styles and colorways.  Check out VIVOBAREFOOT if you’re interested in stylish minimalist footwear that you can wear to work.  And if you want to go barefoot, there are some really comprehensive resources out there with great information.  Learn ahoy!

My favorite barefoot people

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I’ll give you fair warning: don’t just jump into minimalist footwear, or you’ll hurt your feet.  Take it a little at a time, okay? 

How to Clean Up a Beach

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I decided that Mr. Savvy and I were going to do something good on Earth Day this year.  Good for the planet, I mean.  Connecticut’s GOT to have something going on, I thought.  Connecticut is not known for their earth friendliness the way Oregon or Vermont is.  Come on, what do you picture when I say, “Vermonters”?  A bunch of hippies and free spirits who don’t allow Walmart within their borders — that’s a common answer (and an awesome one, if I can stereotype for a moment.  Thanks, Vermonters!).  Now what about Connecticut?  The Insurance Capitol of the World, right?  Yeah.  That does not imply green fun.

I needed some environmental action, and with Earth Day on my side I found what I was looking for.  The group Citizens Campaign for the Environment had set up a cleanup day at an urban beach in New Haven, so all I had to do was call and let them know we were coming.

It was serendipitous.  And rainy.

It was also my first beach cleanup.  I can be shy when it comes to strangers, so I was nervous.  I thought the challenging part would be working with the other environmentalists.

I was wrong.  Meeting everyone was easy.  A common interest will do that.  Add in a really uncomfortable, cold, wet day and you’ll get a group of people laughing with each other like old friends.

No, the hard part was keeping my spirits up as I reached for bits of plastic.  Over and over, we picked up brittle plastic bags and eroding styrofoam cups, plastic straws, bottle caps, potato chip bags, and old receipts.  I found a hat — an entire Life is Good hat — abandoned to the waves.  Someone else hauled up a carpet from between the rocks.  An unopened container of Pringles.  Soda cans, forgotten toys,  fast food cup tops and fishing twine.  It was overwhelming.  It never stopped.

We worked.  I thought about the single-use medical gloves we were using, and the fact that we were putting plastic garbage into plastic bags.  I thought about how Long Wharf beach is across the street from IKEA, the leader in disposable furniture.  I thought about how easy it was to overlook the bits of plastic in the sand.  We are trained not to look at it anymore, and we had to refocus and reach for it instead of ignoring it like everyday.  And we still missed things.  Mr. Savvy and I followed along behind a group of volunteers, picking up the bits they missed.  Then another group followed us, filling their own trash bag.  Find anything good? we called.  Jackpot! they answered.

At the end of the event, we made it through about half of the 3/4 mile long beach with an enormous pile of trash.   Too bad we didn’t have a scale to weigh it out.

I’m glad we went.  I had fun with this group of like-minded people.  Were we taking part “conspicuous conservation“?  Sure — we were doing something green in an attempt to get people to notice.  I would say that all environmental action is going to be conspicuous for the sole fact that not everyone does it.  If we want to make it the norm, we have to be conspicuous about it.

Beyond that, I’m looking at plastic waste with fresh eyes.  I spent a lot of time reaching for seashells instead of styrofoam and seaweed instead of plastic.  Too much time.  As Beth Terry (among others) has been saying for years, plastic looks like sea life.  No wonder our animals are dying from it.

Mr. Savvy and I ended the day in the supermarket on the lookout for something warm.  We passed displays of potato chips and I thought about chip bags full of live mussels and seaweed.  We saw grocery carts piled high with soda, and I pictured those plastic bottles half buried in the sand, bottle caps strewn to the wind.  People were buying cellophane-wrapped tulips and netted, tin-foiled hams, and cigarette cartons and lottery tickets and filmy produce bags full of bananas and mangoes, and it all looked absurd.

Between the two of us, we came away with a pound of coffee in its crinkly plastic packaging.  I can make this better, I said.  I’m with you, Mr. Savvy replied.

How was your Earth Day?

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where as we picked up garbage, I felt a lot like the Disney cartoon character WALL-E.  Someone on the writing team for that movie must have participated in a beach cleanup before.  

The Wilder Life

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The Wilder Life

One night this winter, I decided to see how other people felt about the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and came across a soon-to-be released book The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, by Wendy McClure.  Laura geek that I am, I requested it at the library for the moment it came out.

A few months later, I had forgotten about it until one trip when the librarian said, “Oh, I have something for you!” and delivered this bit of goodness into my outstretched hands.

The Wilder Life.  It’s a memoir written by a woman who becomes so enamored of the comfortable scenes in the Little House books that she does everything she can to be a part of the world.  She bakes Long Winter bread, churns butter, and embarks on an epic, on-again, off-again trip to visit the homesites.

She’s also funny.  Wicked funny, as we would say if we were still in New Hampshire:

“I wanted to go out into the backyard and just, I don’t know, grab stuff off trees, or uproot things from the ground, and bring it all inside in a basket and have my parents say, “My land! What a harvest!  There were a host of other things from the books that I remember I wanted to do too, such as: Make candy by pouring syrup in the snow.  Make bullets by pouring lead.  Sew a seam with tiny and perfectly straight stitches.  Have a man’s hands span my corseted waist, which at the time didn’t seem creepy at all.”

Wendy makes fun of herself for loving these things.  She makes fun of other Little House lovers too — to the point where it’s a bit off-putting at times.  Irreverent, they call it.  Keep reading, and it’ll get better.

As she journeys, Wendy realizes a few things.  She learns facts about Laura that she doesn’t want to learn.  She feels lost and grumpy at the homesites instead of transported, and expects more out of it than she gets.  She tries to grab at the history, as if learning and owning everything she can will make her happy.

She doesn’t think the Laura Ingalls Wilder books promote simplicity.

Reader, would you be surprised that I almost put down the book when I read that?  I was impatient with Wendy to get to the point, impatient for her to realize that simple does not mean easy, and that having everything in reach doesn’t mean happiness.

In the end, Wendy got it. She realized that Laura’s books and her own journey are “a love letter to the promise of success and prosperity,” as she says, and let everything go.  Because you can always write love letters, but then you must live life as best you can.

If that’s not simplicity, then I don’t know what is.

Pick up The Wilder Life and give it a read.  See if you come to the same conclusions I have, and enjoy the many, many details I left out.  It’s a good book for “bonnet-heads” (as Wendy calls us), and a good book about the pursuit of happiness.  This savvy girl couldn’t ask for more.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where this book looks so friendly that I felt like I was carrying a friend around in my hands.  I love books like that.  Book image courtesy of Amazon.  The other photos are mine.  Also, I have no affiliations with either Wendy McClure or Amazon.  I read this book and loved it, and wanted to share it with you.  End of story.

Homesteading and The Law

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Once upon a time, about twenty years ago when I was a kid, I asked my dad for a horse.  I was fascinated with horses.  I had read Black Beauty and Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In fact, I read every horse story I could find.  I subscribed to horse magazines.  I knew how to care for horses.  I knew horse anatomy and horse jargon and rules for jumping competitions.  I knew everything about horses, except what it was like to stand next to one.  So I asked for a horse.

My dad said no.  He didn’t make any of the usual arguments, like the fact that horses are expensive, or that I didn’t know how to ride, or that we didn’t have time for a horse.  My dad said to me, “Chris, we can’t get a  horse.  The zoning commission says you need to have three acres in order to own a horse, and we only have one.  Therefore, we can’t have a horse.”

It sounded logical.  Once I learned what the zoning commission was (which took a while, by the way — try to explain zoning to a kid some time), I didn’t question it.  We didn’t get a horse, and that was that.

Twenty years later, a story came across my radar that made me prick up my ears.  The story is about a woman named Sheri Sala, who lives in my hometown.  Sheri owns a goat.  Sheri also lives on a half acre plot.

Are you seeing a trend here?

Sheri received a cease-and-desist order from the Berlin zoning committee, for owning her goat on too little land.  Goats fall under the classification of “farm animal,” along with horses, cattle, sheep, poultry, game birds and rabbits. According to the law, you can’t own a farm animal unless you own three acres of land.

Sheri is trying to appeal, which would let Benny the goat live with her, because Benny is more of a pet than a farm animal.

To me, that’s not the real issue.  Yes, I agree that Benny shouldn’t be taken away from his home.  Benny is a pet and Benny has bonded with the family.  He makes less noise than a dog, and I’m sure his poops don’t smell any better or worse.

But the larger problem here is that laws like this exclude regular, everyday people from experimenting with homesteading.

Owning a little homestead has been a not-so-secret dream of mine for a while now.  Eventually, I would like to have a house with a garden and some sort of animal running around, like chickens or a goat or two.  I would also like to be close enough to town to take part in the town.  And most houses close to town are not going to give me three acres of land.

Trying to think from a local government’s point of view, there are downsides to allowing animals on small parcels of land: noise complaints, smell complaints, and in the case of goats, damage complaints.  There are also questions about the happiness of animals living on small plots.  But other people  seem to be faring just fine raising animals in their backyards.

With this in mind, it seems to me that our local governments should be amending existing laws like this and encouraging homesteading in suburbia.  For starters, people who homestead will be eating fresh, local food.  They’ll also be getting plenty of exercise as they work outdoors, both of which contribute to a healthy immune system.  Healthy people don’t miss work as often, and put less of a strain on resources like walk-in clinics and emergency rooms — things the community pays for.

Too, there’s the idea that people who homestead will be buying their supplies locally.  Large home improvement stores don’t carry animal feed, which means homesteaders would hopefully rely on local stores.  This means more money for the town overall.

People working outdoors contributes to an overall sense of neighborhood safety and community.  It’s very pleasant to walk down a street and see your neighbors, to call out to them as you ride your bike.  We should be encouraging that.

Not to mention the environmental benefits of eating locally, and the increase in the well-being of the animals you raise.

Part of the other reason that I think we have laws in place like Berlin’s three-acre law is to make it hard to farm.  I think that local governments don’t want their towns to be “farm towns,” because farm towns are supposedly full of hicks.  In the town’s eyes, there is nothing new or modern or earth-changing about farming.  After all, farms are frequently messy.  They are run by older people, which means nothing good for the growth of a small town.

I guess no one told the local government that young farmers are in, and homesteading is experiencing a resurgence.

We can do a few things for people like Sheri Sala.  Specifically, check into your town ordinances to confirm you can raise small livestock like goats, chickens, and rabbits on a parcel of land your size.  If you can’t, try to get these animals reclassified from livestock to small animals, which puts them on the same level as cats and dogs.  Even if you don’t want to raise your own food, work on these things to help other people, and get to know your local government.

Finally, one of the friendliest things you can do is to talk to the people in your community who are already raising their own food.  Get to know them, get to know their stories.  And for goodness’s sake, don’t call the cops when their chickens are cackling too much — talk to the people instead.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where laws like Berlin’s three-acre law dash the dreams of little horse-lovers everywhere.  Sniffle!  Horse nose image courtesy of nic0.  Goat image courtesy of tibchris.  Chicken image courtesy of Will Merydith.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, and In Our Bodies Too

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I recently spent some time on the roof of a local sewage treatment plant.

Does that statement make you smile?  It makes me smile.  I picked up a job as a freelance news reporter for one of the local newspapers this month, and I’ve been running all over the area following stories.  I never pictured myself climbing up the side of buildings for one.

Which is exactly what I did this week.  Some of the recent hubbub around here is about the local wastewater treatment plant upgrading its systems and adding new representatives to their board of directors.  Like a dutiful reporter, I headed over to the Mattabassett District facility to snag a few pictures and chat with the executive director of the District, Brian Armet.

While we were talking, Brian said some smart things — things you and I have heard already.  “Your average citizen in this town has no idea if they’re connected to this facility.  Some people don’t know if they have a septic system or not,” he said.  “People don’t want to know where their wastewater goes.

Out of sight, out of mind.

It’s the same way with garbage.  No one wants to think about what happens to the things they flush or throw away.  This lack of knowledge helps keep our society stuck in a rut of single-use disposables and careless consumption.

I wonder what would happen if we all had trash and compost heaps out back, or let our garbage pile up in the streets the way we used to.  We would have to look at and smell our waste all day.  Would we reduce more? I’d like to think yes, but our collective inability to take action probably makes that a no.

At the plant, Brian and I also talked about the future.  We talked using the nitrogen from human waste as fertilizer on gardens and crops.  It’s not readily practiced around here — and it’s controversial because of the pathogens in human waste, and all the other stuff that our bodies now excrete.  We put too many chemicals on our skin, we take too much medicine, we eat meat treated with artificial hormones.  What goes in must come out, and unfortunately, this stuff does not break down or go away.  We keep passing it from place to place, food to body to environment.  Now our sewage treatment places are dealing with an overload of artificial chemicals.

While we wait for technology to catch up enough to deal with this deluge, we stop putting so much garbage into our bodies and slow the chemical output:  Eat hormone-free meat.  Use natural cleaners like vinegar and use natural body care products from people you trust.  Put your food in glass instead of plastic.  Reconsider using hormonal birth control, and eat slow foods so that you don’t get sick as often.  You’ve heard it all before.

I think one person can make a difference.  I keep saying this because I keep thinking about it as I reconsider what the heck we’re doing here.  And I keep coming back to the same conclusion: one person can make a difference.  So gear up, adopt a new habit, and talk to your friends.  That’s how these changes are made.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where it’s pretty hard to live some place as beautiful as that second photo and not have a deep respect for the planet.  The photo in question is of the gardens at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT.  They don’t use human fertilizer on their gardens (as far as I know), but I love that photo and I’d love to know more about their growing practices.

The Catch and Release Program

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There’s something about decluttering and downsizing an entire house that makes a person not care about things anymore — the things that you used to live with, the things that you’re not taking with you, the things that were once belongings but are now just stuff.

For example, Mr. Savvy and I owned a jar of rocks.  It wasn’t a bad jar of rocks, as far as rocks go.  It served its purpose well holding the screen door open, and we liked adding to it when we had the chance: bits and bobs we had collected throughout our time together, rocks that were cool or fun-looking, rocks from places we had visited together, or rocks that had splintered and shattered along our path and caught our eye.  They were fun, and we hauled them with us from our last apartment to this one.

But you know what?  They’re just rocks.

Moving has thrown that into relief.  We took the rocks to Wagon Hill Farm this weekend and released them into the wild.  We tossed them into the bay so that Nature could do her best with them, and threw some for Lily to chase at top speed.  Someone else will find them, maybe in ten years when they’re pebbles, or maybe never, which would be okay too, because they’d be doing their thing out there in the wilderness.

We enjoy giving away our stuff.  It makes moving a heck of a lot easier.  Once we’re done, we’ll have so little that I doubt we’ll fill the pickup truck we’re borrowing.  We’re loving watching our house emptying out to the point where Mr. Savvy even suggested that we do this the next time we move, whenever that is.  Let’s get rid of all our belongings the next time, he said.  It was music to my ears.  I called it the catch and release program.

It means that we won’t have to find an apartment that fits our Stuff (like an enormous bed).  It means that we have license to pick up new-to-us furniture that we’re not sure about, that we might not love, or that might not work for us.  We can always resell it or give it away.  We can experiment with decor ideas (the thought makes me giggle), we can travel lightly, we can make a pact to get all that we need off Craigslist and Freecycle.  Our Stuff is not holding us back because it’s just stuff — it’s not important enough for a capital letter any more.  We’ll get some for a little while, use it, love it, then throw it back.  Moving has done that to us.

The trick is, I think, carrying over this mindset into the real world, that banal everydayness where you’re not filled with fire and urgency and deadline.  Perhaps it’s as easy as remembering that we’re all small and insignificant on this world, so our things don’t matter.  Perhaps it’s much harder — writing notes and searching for inspiration and reaching out to a greater community.  Whatever, the case, I’m all in. This is a good move.

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©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where we’re talking about collecting rocks all next year, and then throwing them back on the Winter Solstice.  That would be a nice tradition.  Basket of rocks image courtesy of Dominic (because I didn’t think to take a picture of my own).