Community Pantry

So Mrs B went all in, and started taking over the procurement of supplies right away. She found a good deal on bulk white vinegar for me at Costco or one of those big-box-stores and grabbed 3 giant jugs of the stuff, which is smart since white vinegar is probably the most used liquid in canning.. She also rounded up a lot of the most commonly needed spices that I had been unable to find locally. She also stopped at the local trade days and bought up quite a number of jars for not much cash (I was proud of how good she did).

Last Saturday, Sunshine got Biff and Pancho to clear all of the random bullshit out of the laundry room and take it all to the barn so that Mrs B and I could take over the laundry room and turn it into the community pantry. Mrs B kicked ass at spearheading that herculean effort. I would imagine that more ass will be kicked before it is all said and done, because she confessed to me that organizing was her comforting ritual (kind of like repetition is for me).

Mr B went all in, too. He got up before the ass crack of dawn and carried his ass to the nearest big box home improvement store for some heavy duty shelves to hold lots of jars of jam and pickles and shit. Biff and Pancho put them together and got them arranged the way Mrs B wanted them. I think it looks great so far. Well, except for all the empty shelves, but I’ll take care of that as quickly as I can.

pantry

Look at all that shelving!

white vinegar

When I say she found some mega jugs of white vinegar, I ain’t lying.

crocheted cleaning supplies

I moved all of my crochet dusting mitts and swiffer covers in there for the community to use.

She organized the jars of food I gave her to store in there.

empty jars

We put all of the unused jars in there. Biff was happy to empty them out of his closet.

frugal jars

Look at all those jars she got me!

drawers of labels, markers, papers

She put all of my wax and parchment papers in this drawer unit. The markers and labels are in there too.

Sunshine moved his meat machines in there, and we put all of the sausage and jerky spices in there too. Once the storage compartment those had been living in was empty, Biff quickly moved all of Sunshine’s art supplies from his home into that compartment

It’s nice to not have so much stuff crammed into every possible nook and cranny in our magic bus. A lot of that stuff was for community use anyway, and it was driving me crazy playing all that Tetris day in and day out.

Now, if I could just find a steady supply of the labels I like best for the lids of the canned goods, I’d be a happy camper.

 

New faces

We have a new face out here in the middle of buttfuck nowhere. Actually, there are a few new faces. A couple of them are visiting from the Pacific Northwest. One of them is a part-timer who works for Sunshine; we call him Pancho. I’m not sure how he got that nickname, but he says it was a childhood nickname. I’m not sure how he & Sunshine found each other, but I’m glad they did. He works his ass off, he’s polite; and he isn’t a weirdo that won’t eat squash and cantaloupe like Biff is.

side note: what the fuck is that even about, anyway? Who the fuck lives in the south and doesn’t eat squash or cantaloupe? I suppose I’ll give Biff a pass, since he does understand that peanut butter is a food group.

I’m glad Pancho is here. He likes to garden, so I’m hoping that he’ll be able to help me with the workload. He might be able to, if Sunshine will give the guys enough of a break from working on our little house.

It’s nice to see progress starting on the house again. Now, I just hope that the weather will cooperate and it won’t rain on us and shut down work.

I definitely need help

I might have finally gotten some. 

Mrs B likes organizing. I like organized things. I am tired of playing the never ending game of Tetris that all this food preservation causes. So, Mrs B is going to take charge of the community pantry and store and organize it all. She’s also volunteered to take charge of procurement of supplies for preserving food and inventory management of all of the above.

Side note: she also said she’s willing to help pick beans and shit as she can, but she will have a full time job most of the year because that’s how it works for teachers.

Thank heaven! I can’t do all the things alone. She likes organizing, please organize this stuff! She gets out and about far more often than I do, so she has far more opportunities to drop by a grocer or Costco or whatever and grab a gallon of vinegar or whatnot when needed for canning. She also has friends and family in the region that she’s going to ask for donations of jars because that’s the ultimate in frugality and eco-friendly consumption–reuse Mason jars! 

We’re kicking the guys out of the laundry room. They have to get their shit (tools and nuts and bolts and screws and random pieces of what the fuck ever those metal things are) out of there. Mrs B donated a bunch of rolling shelving units to the cause, and Mr B has already said he’d pay for jars since I provide the labor so it’s perfect that she’s taking on procurement for us since she can access him easier for funds (she does live with him, after all).

Once we get a system in place I won’t have to worry about keeping track of how much vinegar and jars and lids and shit I have and I can concentrate on processing the food. The guys have said that they’ll help harvest stuff, she will help when available, I’ll gladly shell peas and snap beans and freeze/can/dehydrate shit all day long, and then I can hand it to her and let her organize and store it for us all. 

Side note: I find a great comfort in the repetition involved in all this processing. I understand the appeal of Catholicism, what with all the repetition of the rosary and all.

It will be nice to have someone else taking on part of the headaches (and TBH it sounds like it won’t be a headache for her once the guys clear their shit out of the laundry room since she likes organizing). It will allow me to concentrate on the processing parts of the equation with the garden (and backdoor fruit from work). 

Thank you, Mrs B, for taking on inventory management and procurement of supplies! It’s nice to have help!

Water water everywhere

We’ve had torrential rains this past week or so. The road was under water from flash flooding; not like that’s a big deal out here in the middle of buttfuck nowhere but still…

I woke up one morning and noticed the sound of dripping as I drank my coffee. Apparently the roof of my magic bus is leaking, and it was dripping down from the built in TV box over the dashboard.

Wednesday evening, just before sunset, I went to take some trash to the barrel and stepped in a river running through the back yard. The leaky pipe from the water line installation had decided it was tired of slowly bleeding to death and decided arterial hemorrhaging was a better way to go. Mr B and I crawled around in the mud and got that repaired thanks to the kind visitor who held flashlights and lanterns for us.

I get inside, covered in water, mud, and sweat, (and smelling like a dirty buffalo), and less than a minute after I finish taking a shower? It starts raining. I had to put my big ass pot I use for canning under the drip that I knew was coming from above the dashboard.

Yesterday, as I was attempting to fold the pile of clean laundry on the bed, I noticed that the foot of the bed was soaking wet. The roof unit air conditioner was dripping condensation.

Sunshine will be home tonight, and maybe he can deal with some of this stuff. Maybe he can get to work on the little house so I have a more watertight environment. I’m tired of lurching from crisis to crisis out here. I’m tired of all these water problems and plumbing problems. I’m just tired.

Practice makes perfect

I make a lot of jokes about how Mr B moves a lot of dirt. While it is true that he moves a lot of dirt, sometimes he’s actually moving dirt for a purpose that I can discern. Sometimes, I think he’s just playing with his toys. Either way, he’s had a bit of practice with his tractor. He’s gotten fairly good at precision maneuvers with it.

He used it to help me turn the older compost heap this week. I was going to remove the entire fence from around it, but he said I didn’t need to do all that.

freshly turned june 28 2017

He was right. He turned that compost heap without tangling up in the fence. I was grateful as hell for it, too; turning the smaller, newer one with shovel & pitchfork was brutal for me so I can’t begin to imagine how awful it would have been to try and turn that big bastard alone.

The newer compost heap probably won’t remain the smaller of the two for long. It’s growing by leaps and bounds every weekend when I bring home all of the backdoor food my boss tells me to get rid of.

new heap june 28 2017

It’s also growing by leaps and bounds due to the addition of all of the dead or dying plants that have given us all they can give for this gardening season. We’re slowly removing plants when they are done producing to try and prepare for Mr B to rearrange the dirt in the garden area. In his defense, it actually needs to be done. There are a few low spots that hold water after it rains, and we lost a lot of vegetables to that standing water and poor drainage this spring. We’re aiming to have all of the dirt rearranged by the end of July, which means we may have to sacrifice some stuff that could potentially produce more food for us. We need to be set to plant our fall crops by the middle of August according to all of my research.

It’s kind of disgusting to me that I may have to let him plow under some things that could potentially provide more vegetables for us, but I’m trying to look at the upside–he will get rid of the standing water spots so that I don’t lose a lot of food to heavy rains. Torrential rains have become the new normal around here when we’re not in drought conditions, so we have to plan for how to keep it from being as problematic for us in the future if we want to continue to grow our own food. And in the end, becoming more self-reliant was a major goal of ours when we came out here.

final note: those compost heaps stink to high heaven. Mollie rolled in the ripest, juiciest parts of them and the stench of her almost made me yarf. Poor Mollie got the bath to end all baths and was mad at me for the rest of the day. I’ve got to plan around the compost heap and the wind when I start planning the next planting, because I am tired of trying to harvest food downwind from that foul smell.

 

The upside to small town living

I ship a lot of things around the country. Now that I have penpals in Canada and Australia, I send a lot of things to various parts of the globe. It would be confusing as hell for me to figure out the most economical way to mail and ship things if I had to do it alone.

Enter the postmaster at our local post office.

He’s a genius. After the first couple of times I brought stuff in to ship via USPS, he looked at me and told me that from now on I should just bring whatever it was up there and let him figure out the most economical way to ship it.

I took him at his word, and I have never regretted it. I have wandered up to his window with the most random assortments of shit, and he never bats an eye. I sort it out into piles and we attack one pile at a time until he has gotten them all ready to ship, and it definitely has saved me a lot of money over doing it my way.

side note: he has saved me so much money that I have actually become emboldened to ship more shit across the country, so in the end it wasn’t much savings after all LOL

I have a funny feeling that, should I ever be sick or otherwise incapacitated, I could stick some shit in the mailbox with a note to the delivery guy to “please take this to Justin and have him ship this for me”, include the address it goes to, and enclose a signed blank check; and I’d get a tracking number and receipt in my mailbox the next day.

It doesn’t get any better than that. I would never have dared to try such a stunt at any other post office I have dealt with; they would have had me arrested for domestic terrorism for dumping 6 piles of random shit on their counter and placing a note with an address atop each pile.

Living in such a rural area, I am presented with so many opportunities to build relationships with the people around me. My next-door-neighbor taught me to can jam. The neighbor across the street has come over and fixed the lawnmower on the spot so that I could finish cutting grass. The neighbor at the end of the road has enlisted Sunshine’s talent for summer art classes at the local creative arts center. The local farm supply & hardware store knows that Sunshine’s purchases often belong under Mr B’s farm account to exempt them from sales tax and will always ask if the purchase should be handled that way; they also get upset when Sunshine comes in without Mollie.

This is part of what we were hoping to achieve when we made the decision to come here and try and start an intentional community. We were hoping to be able to connect with people instead of just having impersonal interactions with them. None of us are islands; we are meant to know each other. That is a huge part of what life is about for me these days, and I’m so glad that I get to live this way.

Training a big box store

When we first started drinking our flavored sparkling water, we were living in east Texas. I got the big box giant with the blue letters and yellow star trained to keep tons of the peach flavor on their shelves for me. Then we moved here, and I eventually got this location of that big box giant trained to keep lots and lots of the peach flavor on their shelves.

side note: yes, it is absolutely possible to train a big box store. It took me going in there several times a week and buying up all of their available stock in my preferred flavor every time I was in there. Eventually, the inventory & logistics experts adjusted their ordering and made sure that more was in stock.

Then we had the “rule” that there would be no burning plastic in this community; Mrs B would be taking all of our plastic to her mom’s place in the next town over (where they actually have recycling pickup).

side note: I put the word rule in quotation marks because as far as I can tell, one person made that decision for the entirety of the community with no discussion from the rest of the community.

So we put 55 gallon barrels in the yard to collect the metal cans and the glass bottles and all the recyclable plastics. It took us about two weeks to fill the plastic one to overflowing. This situation prompted threats of a new “rule” that there would be no plastic allowed out here. I was all for it, but I wanted it to be a total ban on plastics.

side note” when I say total, I mean total. No plastic wrapped food, no plastic containers of fruit, no plastic wrapped breakfast cereals, no plastic k-cups for those ridiculous one cup coffee brewers, no plastic toothbrushes, no plastic shelves in the doors of the refrigerators (hell, no plastic shells on the outside of refrigerators), no plastic bottles of oil for cars, no plastic buckets of hydraulic fluid for tractors….. Yeah, you know that didn’t happen.

So I decided that, to reduce some of the contention around the amount of plastic we were using, I would buy my flavored sparkling water in cans.

That was months ago. I am still trying to train this big box store to keep more than 6 twelve packs of my flavored water in stock. I’m resigned to going to this store multiple times per week and buying up all of their available stock in my preferred flavor in cans, whether I need them or not at that moment. Eventually, they’ll figure it out and expand the amount of shelf space allotted to cans of my preferred flavor of sparkling water; then they’ll have enough in stock that I can reduce my stops at that store to once a week again. Until then, pray for the employees and patrons at that big box giant, because I hate going grocery shopping with a purple fucking passion.

final note: I know, bottled water is not very eco-friendly. I’ve decided that I’m ok with it, especially if I can train this store to carry enough cans, because I have given up so much in our journey towards a more simple, eco-friendly way of life.