Monday, June 02, 2008

More wisdom from Mom and good stewardship...

(from a personal email sent to ChattanoogaPagansATyahoogroupsDOTcom, June 2, 2008:

When I was growing up, I thought my mother was the cheapest, stingiest woman on the planet! She reused EVERYTHING!

My dad carried sandwiches for lunch every day for years so we went through a lot of sliced bread. She carefully shook the crumbs out of the empty bread bags, folded them, and put them inside another saved bread bag in the drawer. Those bags got used for everything. We wrapped left over biscuits after dinner in them (which were, in turn, resued as biscuit toast for breakfast the next morning). We saved receipts in them. We split them down the seam and used them to cover a bowl that didn't have a lid (secured with a rubber band saved from something else).

Wax paper was the absolute gold standard for wrapping sandwhiches, and if Dad remembered to bring it home, it was sometimes resued, too. There was no plastic cutlery in our house. If Dad needed a spoon or fork, Mom took one out of the drawer and Dad brought it home to be washed. By the way, my Mom STILL uses much of the same set of stainless tableware we had back then, so I know that process worked!

Empty mayonnaise jars were used as canning jars, nail containers, bean canisters, etc. When Mom bought things like Zip-Lock bags, they were reused, too. In fact, she still saves them and has so many empty, washed clean, and carefully saved bags that she probably won't have to buy another for years! Popcorn came in just one bag, not a box with six bags inside it, each one wrapped individually in plastic. Cheese had one wrapper on it instead of an outer wrap and a wrapper around each slide. Things that grew out of style or didn't look quite as shiny and new as before were still used as long as they retained usefullness; Mom still has the same Charles Chips can she had when I was a child and still stores flour in it, and it works just fine.

She made new clothing out of old clothing and out of cloth flour sacks (not seen much anymore, but they do still make them), dust cloths out of old tee shirts, biscuit/cookie cutters from empty vegetable cans. We picked up hickory nuts and made hickory nut pies instead of pecan, made the best pear preserves in the world from knotty old Keiffer pears we picked up from old trees in the pasture, and ate persimmons, blackberries, dewberries, and mucadines we found wild in the woods. She and Dad grew much of what we ate, saving seed from one harvest to start the next. Dad kept a few cattle almost all the time, selling a few and using a couple a year to stock the freezer. The beef we ate was wrapped in a single piece of butcher paper with the contents written right on the paper, not in a stryofoam tray with an absorbant pad and a plastic overwrap with a paper label. Found objects and windfalls were put to good and lasting use; when my aunt was given l arge commercial spools of sewing thread, Mom and my grandmother carefully selected multiple strands of complimentary colors and wound them into balls of "yarn," crocheting clothing from it, some of which I still have and wear.

After that wonderful example of good stewardship, all I could do when I grew up was run madly from it and try to become much more sophisticated. I learned how to buy plastic bags and only use them to through away empty glass jars because I didn't can my own food (why, when it was so eash to buy it at the grocery?), ignore healthful, readily available food because it was too much effort to pick it, and to just chuck my old tee shirts and buy nice, neatly trimmed wash cloths new and use them for dusting and cleaning. Food scraps were just trash. I never reused bread bags because when I did, my friends said, "Ewwwwwwwww! That's not sanitary!" Somehow it didn't occur to me that A) the bread came wrapped in it and we didn't say, "Ewwww!" and B) I was over 20 years old and hadn't died from it in all that time.

So here I am, many years later, looking at Mom (right next door) and finally thinking, "You were one smart woman!" She was a much better steward of the land we have chosen to call home than I ever was. I'm learning all over again what it means to keep the promises Three Crows and I made when we moved up here. There are so many things that I can do that not only reduce my impact on the environment but save resources that my family can use for other things.

What has helped more than anything is awareness. From the moment we stood in what is now our back yard and promised to be good stewards and partners with this land, we have been more aware. By stating and sharing our intention out loud, we moved it from a nice thought to an act of will. As simple as that sounds, I believe it has been key to moving us more and more in the right direction. And conversations like this one have the same effect. As we raise our awareness, more opportunities will present themselves.

Is our family "there" yet? Heck, no! But we're closer...much closer...and like all journeys, this one starts with a single step. With the way we work now, I'm not sure returning to my Mom's way of life is entirely possible, but many of her tricks are already serving us...both our family and the big us...well...and we're enjoying the process as well as the product.

I guess it's like the rest of life - doing the right thing feels good.

Love in abundance,


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