Let’s Talk About Thrift Stores

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I do and don’t like to shop at Thrift Stores. I love thrift store shopping when I have extra money to spend and encounter those thrift stores that are clean, well merchandised, and prices are affordable, and I feel like I have purchasing power. I don’t like thrift store shopping as much when I have fewer choices and absolutely have only XX dollars to spend and I’m not in the ‘mood’ for gently used anything. Usually when I’m in those kind of moods, it’s dark anyway and I’m more in memory of childhood days when sometimes it was ‘hand-me-downs’, and not much other choices. So, it’s a frame of mind for me.

Over the years, from teen, to young parent, to middle aged parent of almost adult kids, to grandmother, my identity, self esteem, and needs have changed. In my teens, having cool, new clothes of the 1960’s made a major difference to how I felt about myself. As a young wife and mother having fun clothes was important to me as I assumed my new identity as wife and mother. As a working wife and mother, career woman of the 1970’s and 1980’s, having a professional wardrobe was important to my sense of identity. Making sure my children had new home, new clothes, new toys, plenty of groceries was important to my sense of being a successful parent.

But in the 1980’s something happened. Brand name labels became the ‘have to have’ among kids and with the brand names came gradually escalating prices until ridiculous prices was the operating word. Tennis, running, basketball shoes jumped to over $100.00 a pair and kept climbing. And that was rather my own personal ‘wake up call’ and when I put my foot down, explaining to my children, by my logic, that this brand name label clothing was a marketing device and nothing more. I wasn’t going to buy into it.

Not so easy for them, because part of their forming identities was tied to what the kids at school were wearing and having whatever was the newest, coolest marketing product. Things like Cabbage Patch dolls began the trend towards ‘must have at all costs’ toys that parents needed to get for their children. Where was this mentality coming from, I wondered, while I didn’t purchase Cabbage Patch dolls at outrageous prices? Well I did purchase some of the trendy toys of that era for my children, but only in what I considered to be an ‘acceptable and affordable’ range by my standards.

Fast forward through the 1990s to the present, and the trend of buying the newest, latest products is a firmly entrenched mentality among families today. I shudder at the challenges my children, now adults with children of their own face in their efforts to satisfy the perceived wants and needs of their children. If I were faced with some of those financial challenges now, I would have to consciously work to stay above the fray.

But now I sound like my own grandparents sounded to my ears when I was a lot younger. So I’ve reached ‘that age’. Even so, I have growing concerns for my adult children and my grandchildren because I sense strongly the lifestyle we enjoyed when I was raising them is more elusive as they raise their own children.

I began frequenting thrift stores for the fun of finding those very special finds — cut crystal, unique bags, vintage tablecloths and napkins, yard ornaments, occasional kitchenware. But I didn’t ‘have to’ shop thrift stores, so it was a fun way to spend an afternoon and I was spelunking, looking for those great finds. And then I tried my hand at looking for certain collectibles and antiques in thrift stores and the best of the best thrift stores were when we lived in a city that had wealth that was measured only by more wealth. I found some of the best quality of whatever I was looking for in the thrift stores that dotted that city. It was my ideal of shopping manna.

When we moved from the city to a more rural setting, in region known to have a shrunken economic baseline, so did the availability shrink in the shrunken towns that comprised the region. The spelunking changed and took on a different element, but was still fun, because I could ocassionally find authentic antiques at thrift store prices, and collectibles not yet priced at collectible prices. When we made the decision to go from two incomes – his and mine to one income – his – we felt proud of our decision, made the shifts to tighten our belts, and I earnestly began to look at reviving all the dollar saving hints and tips I’d learned growing up as a child in an economically-challenged family.

I wanted to see if I could do with our household what some of the Depression-era people did to creatively stretch a dollar, recycle, re-use, re-fashion, and remake. It wasn’t easy to find reading material on such things, and I wished I could have been in the tutelage of some of the elderly who knew how to do what I did not and could teach me. I realized that I had grown accustomed to the ease of consumerism, and began to contemplate ideas like what if…….

— what if the economy implodes and we have no choice but to revive some of the older skills?

— what if we couldn’t drive cars any and everywhere because gas cost too much and global warming was a concern?

— what if and the what if’s went on in my mind

And perhaps it could be called an intuitive sense of changing times because as a society, a nation, we seemed to have reached a point of needing to reconsider lifestyles permitted to evolve at the hands of marketing devices.

I’m most encouraged though by the creativity I am seeing among the young families and especially the young women of today as they try to manage their lives and lifestyles on a shrinking dollar. I see a revival of a need to find creative ways to re-use, re-make, re-fashion, re-cycle, and I see young families finding ways to do more with a bit less and keeping a good spirit while doing so. For some it seems to be an effort to restore or return to a prescribed faith-based lifestyle that puts women in their homes with their families. For some it is a flair for the artistic in finding new ways to create clothing, fashion, home decor, gifting. For some it is the challenge forced upon them.

And the thrift store takes on a new prominence in the modern era. Or so it seems to me. So let’s talk about thrift stores.

Deersong

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It was fun, and then it became too real – our fun little Skinflint Curmudgeon character

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Then and Now

Over the years, the imaginary character, skinflint curmudgeon, has been evolving as our own times have been evolving. When he was invented, there was a movement towards abundant simplified living, living off the grid, meaningful living and enriching the act of living. Since he was invented, politics in this country (USA) has so altered the landscape of living life enough that there are economic conditions that rather force a change in lifestyle for those not among the wealthy and more wealthy.
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Erosion of middle class economics, inflated housing market prices, inflated and rising petroleum/gas prices which absolutely will have impact on our carbon-based economy and way of life. Meanwhile the discretionary income margin we permitted for ourselves when we deliberately reduced to one income lifestyle has been consumed by the ever increasing petroleum-based essential products, like groceries, heat for our home, and for us there no longer is a discretionary income margin. Every dollar is budgeted and accounted for and we have yet to make what will be required cuts to manage the cost increases ahead.

So while our fun little character, skinflint curmudgeon, was just going to give ornery type old fashioned advice in a whimsical kind of way, it is becoming less fanciful fun and more a necessity to shave costs, squeeze more out of the dollars we have and look at new ways to manage our lives since the foundational plan of our younger years will not carry us well into our later years.

Deersong

Front yard vegetable patches make food, but some gardens rile the neighbors

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One tomato plant at a time equates to one step at a time in a growing new movement of front yard vegetable patches. Yes, people are getting on board with the idea that one can actually grow food in their own yard and growing it in their front yard sends a message. Instead of all the work and chemicals to maintain a home and garden magazine type yard, one can grow their own food and still have a beautiful ‘growing’ front yard. What constitutes what is beautiful is in the eye of the beholder anyway, so who says that a perfect, green front lawn equates to the only kind of beauty a homeowner can share?

In this time of heightening awareness of sustainability, environmental concerns, global warming, ‘green’ living, I am pleased to see the return of something resembling the ‘Victory Garden’ of WW II era. Another time when this country was at ‘war’, although, I don’t subscribe to the invasion/occupation of Iraq as a ‘just war’, our troops are deployed in combat in wartime.

We chose to move away from urbania and don’t live in a cul de sac of well tended front lawns and landscaping, so I can appreciate that it is a courageous step for people who do live in those kind of ‘traditional’ neighborhoods to shift to planting vegetables in the front yard instead of trying to grow the perfect grass lawn edged by the perfect compliment of landscaped specimens.

The article mentions how neighbor concerns are met with compromise in growing vegetables in attractive ways that don’t detract. Fitting vegetables in among traditional landscaping can be done in such a way as to enhance both. I’m not sure it has to be one way or the other but a compliment of both ways. I saw a home where the front yard had been converted into raised bed gardening and it was quite attractive in a geometric kind of way.

I recently claimed a bit of our front yard to make a combination new flower and vegetable bed. I then claimed a piece along the side for more vegetables. This in addition to my actual kitchen vegetable garden which, btw, I plan to double or triple in size over the coming years. Now I will even plant a tomato plant or maybe a squash in the flower bed that faces the street as my own proud statement to the neighbors, although my neighbors where I live don’t require such a statement, they aren’t too likely to complain if I turn my entire yard into a vegetable garden and orchard.

Do it – make a statement, plant one vegetable in your front yard and then two and maybe you too will want to rip out your front lawn and grown vegetables instead.

End Time for Our Monkey Puzzle Tree, a neighborhood landmark – fading, to dying to dead and time to take it down

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Ahhh, I found someone else who’s mature Monkey Puzzle Tree died – like our 90 + yr old tree has died. Big hat tip to blog That and This (no longer active) for providing an account of demise of the tree, decision to take it down (fell it), along with great accompanying photos and links.

Last spring/summer season I knew our Monkey Puzzle Tree was dead beyond dead. Husband was unwilling to let go and acknowledge the tree was a goner – no more – the one almost green instead of brown branch just wasn’t enough life to save the tree. This spring/summer he acknowledges it is dead and we need to bring it down.

I honestly do not know the habit of this tree in it’s natural setting when it finally does die and have been trying to find out. Does it fall, does it remain standing and if so how long before it falls of it’s own accord. The neighbors seem to think because it is so old, so rooted that it is unlikely to ever fall. I think if it did fall it would take out the entire street corner, and then which way would it fall – on our house – which neighbor’s house??

We are talking now about having it felled and leaving enough stump to have a totem carved out of what is left. We are being told that we should think about selling the wood as it is highly valued in some places. We are told the wood is too difficult to carve and the totem pole idea does not have merit. One way or the other though, I think the tree needs to come down.

Which is why the blog account I bumped into was such a good find for me… thanks!


photo 2000 of the real estate listing for the house, shows the Monkey Puzzle Tree as it was then, when we purchased the house. We bought the house in Nov 2002, and the lower limbs were already straggly and looking sickly. Our neighbor was willing to cut the lower limbs in early spring 2003 (a decision I made that I didn’t consult with my husband about first and he was very, very unhappy about it). Because the tree was planted on what over the next 90 years would become a paved intersection in our small fishing village, the largess of the tree caused a blind spot for traffic making turns at that corner. Losing the lower limbs opened up visibility at the intersection. However, and it may or may not be related, the tree seemed to quickly lose what vitality it had and began the process of dying.


2005 spring/summer season photo of our dying (dead) 90 + year old Monkey Puzzle Tree (The Araucaria Family: Araucariaceae)


Winter 2006 photo of what is now clearly a dead monkey puzzle tree – all that is left is trunk and limbs and that green at the very tippy top – the last breath of hope of life for the tree – by spring it was brown.

Deersong

Update – Yard and Garden – July 15, 2007

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Update – July 15, 2007

Vegetable Garden; doing well enough.

Progress of seeds I planted;
— Corn plants are looking now like corn you see in corn fields.
— Beans, coming along, not too impressive yet
— Squash – zucchini doing okay; yellow summer squash doing okay; acorn squash planted late but they started then failed overnight one night (slugs?? or was it because I decided to fertilize and the acorn squash plants were too new to take being fertilized.
— Cucumbers – well, there are plants, but it’s not too impressive yet.
— Beets have popped up and are shaping out nicely. Note; beets seem to do well here.
— Radishes planted and harvested already, much less nibbling by critters this year.
— Elephant Garlic is doing quite well but can’t tell till I harvest the bulbs.
— Garlic (normal size) seem to be doing okay, can’t see any flowering though. The transplants at the back of the house failed.
— Pumpkins – only one or two, the rest failed.
— Green, Red, Jalapeno peppers – failed
— Dill – failed
— Carrots – two plants growing – the rest I accidentally stepped on when they were newly coming up and they were damaged, okay ruined.

Progress of transplants from garden center;
— bib and red lettuce – okay and growing well. Note; red lettuce adds color to the green garden. Use again!
— spinach – failed.
— tomato plants – doing well, one plant has tomato forming.
— pepper plants – seemd to be doing okay.
— cucumber plants – hard to tell, still so compact and small.
— pumpkin plant – slow but growing.
— onions – doing okay. Separated each bulb and planted 2 batch crops in garden.
Newly planted vegetable bed by front door;
After Sweetie recreated the entrance area at the front door in front yard, he created a new bed for planting. This year I wanted to use it for more vegetables. Since it is strictly clay, I needed to amend it with compost and top soil, before planting anything. It is too late in the season to plant seeds, so I picked up some vegetable plants at the garden center at our one and only department store in the region — Dennis Company. I’m grateful they carry vegetables, herbs, flowers favorable to our climate and area. It makes for a somewhat limited line to choose from, and it’s about 75/25 that what I buy will do well in my yard.

— Squash – flying wheels squash (looks interesting on the label!) – 1 plant.
— Squash – hubbard squash – 2 plants.
— Squash – acorn squash – 2 plants.
— Peppers – varieties – jalapeno – 2 plants, pimento – 2 plants, green – 2 plants

When Sweetie began this project he finished up another project at the other corner of front yard, bricking in and squaring off that corner. I had started last year to create a tiered flower garden effect to replace the brick step tiers he took out. We discovered in our digging that PO had apparantly tried to create about 4 steps, using bricks, from the garage up to the front yard. Over the years, it got buried, so we found a treasure of bricks and attempted to make it workable. It wasn’t too workable, which is probably why it got overgrown in the first place.

He took the bricks to use elsewhere, and that left the tiered effect, which I was prepared to design into a tiered flower garden. I started with some plants late last growing season, and they hadn’t much chance of setting up in their new places, so when he decided to change the corner, the plants were amenable to being transplanted.

I’m not real sure now what those plants are by name, so I’ll have to backtrack and see what I blogged last year. One is hellebos, and three others to be identified.

Deersong

Willow Twig Rooting Solution for new cuttings recipe

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I tried what is known to garderners in hand me down folklore of using willow twigs to make a rooting solution to use with new cuttings. I cut several off my mother’s old willow tree, and put them in a large jar, let them gestate for several days and then added the solution to the ‘new cuttings’ to take root. I wasn’t successful.

I found this at another blog and wanted to share the ‘recipe’ here, so for my own use in my own garden on my own blog here is another recipe for Willow Water rooting hormone.

Here’s what you do:

1. Get a handful of willow twigs (any Salix species will do)

2. Cut them into pieces a few inches long

3. Soak the twigs in a few inches of water for a day or two; then remove the twigs.

4. Use the willow water to soak cuttings in overnight, or to water flats of newly started cuttings, or to help transplants.

Now remember since this method isn’t very exact, the strength of the willow water can vary depending on the time of year, the number of twigs, the concentration of hormones in the twigs, and the amount of time that the twigs were soaked. You will, however, still get a solution that will help your plants root.

hat tip to Weekend Gardener

Deersong

Slow work — keeping some of our history

In encountering one of my earlier blogs, where I was able to import some blog posts from other of my blogs, I discovered that I no longer know the log in information for the email accompanying that particular blog.  Oh no, it has some of our history from the time we lived in our great old house in Bay Center, WA, on Willapa Bay.  Not wanting to lose the information, I have been painstakingly bringing each blog post to this account employing a copy/paste method.  I’m not at all sure what the finished product looks like to others, looks okay to me each time I view the finished posting.   Idea though is for me to preserve a bit of the enthusiasm, sadness, and historical bits from the postings at my ‘former’ blog.  Thanks for your patience, and understanding as I plod through …

Deersong