Guest Post by Jim Murphy
With the cost of everything going up and the future uncertain, stretching your resources and re-purposing items becomes more of a necessity. I am always looking for new ways to get the “max for the minimum.”
Some recent posts here reminded me of some of these things. One in particular by Luddite Jean a while back about 20 meals from just one chicken was very interesting and just the kind of thing I’m talking about. A while later, a couple of the commenters here were talking between each other about alternative uses for chopsticks. Again, just the kind of thing I’m talking about.
My grandparents and parents were a young family when the great depression hit. What kinds of things did they do to make ends meet when things were expensive or scarce?
Unfortunately, many of them who went through this period in time are no longer with us. However, I remember a few things they did or heard of them doing, that now, looking back, were obviously brought about by the times they lived in. Even after times improved somewhat, some still stuck to certain ways of doing things. Old habits are hard to break.
Hunting and gardening were basically a given back then. Most everyone outside the city limits did one or both of this along with bartering services for goods. A little carpentry or plumbing work for a couple of chickens.
I remember my grandfather mixing his old used motor oil with a little bit of kerosene and spraying the underside and inner fender wells of his pick up truck just before winter. He claimed it helped protect the truck from incurring rust damage over the winter months. Getting more serviceable years out of the truck.
I am sure environmentalists would have a cow over this nowadays, but it was a way of taking something that didn’t appear to have any usefulness left ,and yet, finding one more use for it. The county used to spray old used oil to keep the dust down on dirt roads during the spring and summer months. Don’t see that happening anymore.
My grandfather saved some wood ashes from his fireplace to sprinkle around his tomato plants in the garden. He claimed it brought more blooms, thus more tomatoes during the growing season.
My grandmother would take apples and make pie filling and apple sauce. She would then take the wasted apple skins and apple cores and boil them down in water to get enough juice to make apple jelly. Finally using the old boiled down skins and cores to slop the pigs along with other scraps.
That was really getting some serious mileage out of your apples. I am sure such things as corn cob jelly and jello came from the same kind of frugal thinking of, “If I could just find one more use for this material.” My grandmother never threw a tea bag out after only “one” use. She also used up every last bit of an orange. Eat the orange, use the zest of the skin in baking and boil the pithy part of the skin to give the kitchen a nice aroma.
I had uncles who made hard cider during prohibition and would play cards all night on the weekends. That was long before my time but seems they still knew how to have a good time even when things were tough. God bless them.
My parents had the 1970′s to deal with, huge interest rates on mortgages, gas lines, inflation and crazy tax rates. My dad worked his hind end off and made pretty descent money. But by the time he paid for the weekly and monthly expenses, it sure didn’t seem that way.
Christmas was the time of year when me and my brothers would get new blue jeans. My mom would take the brand new jeans and wash them on a low load setting to get as much of the blue dye out of the new jeans. Before the washer would spin that water out, she would remove the new jeans and put any of our old faded jeans that still fit along with jean jackets in the dyed water to soak overnight. Gave old jeans and jackets a “little” darker blue look.
How about an old wire clothes hanger as an emergency exhaust hanger for your car. Works in a pinch to get the muffler from dragging on the road. Unfortunately most clothes hangers they are making now are plastic.
A friend of mine has used old pine wood pallets to build cold frames. The wood was free and if you get a couple or a few years use out of it, all the better.
My brother-in-law reloads his own ammo.
Old newspaper can be used for a weed barrier in the garden, gift wrap and I would dare say make a good candidate
for emergency toilet paper if cut or torn down into smaller sheets. So would old telephone book pages.
I have also seen some recipes on the net for making logs to burn made with old newspaper. We keep some around to start fires. Anyone remember the old Readers Digest Christmas Trees? They would fold the pages of a Readers Digest a certain way and spray paint and decorate them to look like a Christmas Tree.
I have the tank to an old shopvac that I use as a waste can next to my workbench in the basement. The motor is long gone but still found a use for the tank.
I have found that a simple tarp has many uses other than covering wood piles. I have seen them used to stop a leaking roof until better weather comes along to address the problem properly. I have taken an old tarp that was starting to fray and cut a section out big enough to cover the windshield on my work car. It sits out in the weather and this piece of tarp can be removed in the morning along with the frost. Now I don’t have to scrape ice or run the defroster for 10 minutes before I leave during the cold months.
Saves me some time and a little gas money too. Word to the wise. Don’t put it on the car when they are forecasting freezing rain. Not nearly as easy to remove. I am sure tarps can be used for a temporary shelter in a survival situation.
A couple of years ago, I saw a man on TV claiming that he shaved an entire year with just one disposable razor. AN ENTIRE YEAR! He claimed that leaving the razor wet after you use it is what dulls the razor. The water deteriorates the sharp edge on the blade.
This sounded crazy to me so I decided to try this out. I did not get the same results this guy did by far, however, I will get through this year using a total of 5 replacement blades on my razor. This is based on shaving twice a week, not everyday. Get your whiskers soft with hot water, use a shot of liquid hand soap to lather up and shave as normal. I believe the actual cutting of the whiskers is what dulls the blade, not the water.
So getting the whiskers as soft as possible with hot water and the lubrication of the hand soap is what helps keep the razor sharper for longer. Why are replacement razor blades so expensive? Don’t they mass produce these things by the billions?
My boss has been bringing me in empty plastic jugs that contained cat litter. They have the 2 HDPE marking on the bottom. So far, I have used these to store rain water that we use on our garden. The jugs he brings me hold about 2.6 gallons of liquid. I have even taken old motor oil to Walmart for collection in these jugs. I’m sure there are probably many other uses for these.
We use old baby food jars to store herbs we grew in the garden. The really small jars (2 or 4 ounce ?) are really good for this. I also keep my hardware sorted and orderly at the workbench with the larger jars. Kids have used them to make endless crafts, too.
We reuse storage bags when possible.
I use some of the leaves that come down in the fall to pack in my basement window wells. The basement windows are a cheap, thin glass window. And they are below ground level thus the wells on the outside. I pack these wells as tight as I can with dried leaves during the winter.
It keeps heat from wicking out the thin glass, acting as an insulator and deadens the sound from outside. In the spring. I remove the leaves, bag them with the mulching mower and till them into the garden. I even heard of people using dried tree leaves as insulation during the depression to keep the lower floor of their homes warm. Surrounding the house with a temporary snow-type fencing and filling the void between the house and the fence with dried tree leaves. Then removing the fence and leaves in the spring.
With each passing generation, we lose a little bit of useful knowledge and common sense that was gained by the times in which they lived. I’m not sure of the severity of what’s coming, but I feel some of what they did could serve us well in days ahead.
I am very interested in finding out what you, the readers, could share about what you do and what your relatives did many years ago to cope and survive in uncertain times and stretch what resources are available to the max.