’19 A To Z Challenge – Q

AtoZ2019letter-q

 

 

 

 

 

 

I once lived next door to a bootlegger.

Now that I’ve put up the attention-grabbing click-bait for the WordPress reader, this post will be about

QUILTS

and a bunch of other things. Wear your hiking shoes. This will be a longer trek than usual.

Mennonite

I live in the middle of Mennonite territory. With no TV, quilting is a way of life, and financial support. When I first came to town, I lived for about a year and a half, in a boarding house, run by a New Order Mennonite woman. She bought it with, “a settlement from my husband.” Like a lady’s age, I never asked if it was through death or divorce.

It was not unusual, especially in the winter, to come home to find the table pushed over to the edge of the huge, old kitchen, and four tiddly women, – her, her mother, and two friends from up the street – a couple of empty, home-made elderberry wine bottles and four crystal sherry glasses, in front of a quilting frame.

My father used to go out for 2 or 3 hours in the evenings, Monday to Friday. Back before TV, my mother made me a quilt, all by herself, with no frame. It kept me warm in bed, in our old, drafty, hard-to-heat house. How I wish I still had it! She also used to take threadbare clothing and bed sheets, tear them in strips, braid them into a ‘rope,’ and sew it together into an oval floor mat, to keep my feet warm on cold mornings.

The old lady’s house was at the bottom of a steep, block-long hill. There was a stop sign, at a one-way street. With the main street easily visible, a short block ahead, surprising numbers of drivers just didn’t stop. We had an accident a week, and a serious accident every month.

My brother rented parking on a tiny driveway on the uphill side. He left to go home one summer Friday afternoon. He had not been gone an hour, when there was a screech, and a huge crash. I looked out my front window, to see a car parked in his spot – upside-down.

The old lady complained about having to rake, and clean leaves out of the eaves trough, from the two stout Maple trees that stood on either side of the front door. I asked why she didn’t have them taken down. She replied, “Have you seen the scars on those trees??! If they weren’t there, one of those cars would be in your bedroom.”

It was a rough section of town back then – drunks, druggies, hookers. A prospering bootlegger lived the other side of the one-way street. One evening he accompanied a good customer out to the sidewalk – just as there was another terrific car crash, only, this time, the upside-down car was deflected his way, and crushed him.

Recently, with the installation of the LRT street railroad, and urban renewal, that old, brick, century-home has been turned into a Pupuseria, an El Salvadoran restaurant serving meat-and-cheese stuffed corn pancakes. I went in one day, to see if it was worth taking the wife to, and got into a conversation with the owner. (Of course I did!)

I mentioned that I had lived across the street, a half-century before, and told him about the bootlegger and his death. A little light went on. When they were moving in, and had to clean out the basement for their own storage, there had been hundreds of empty beer, wine, and liquor bottles.

Quilt 1

But, back to the quilts. The local Mennonites have organized a Mennonite Relief Committee to raise money for less fortunate Mennonites, especially in South America. They have a second-hand, recycling store, but their biggest money-maker is the annual spring quilt auction.

Quilt 3 (2)

Well-to-do people come from all over the world to bid, both in person, and now, online. These quilts draw fabulous prices, especially the winner of the judging contest, which can go for $10,000 or more.

Quilt 2
This year’s featured quilt at the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale, Little Brown Church, has been described as a giant puzzle with more than 3,000 pieces.

Quilting

We’re Not QUITE Hoarders

I previously published a post titled Something For Nothing, where I listed several of the things I do to conserve or make a little bit of money, to help us, and others, in our retirement.  This one shows another facet, with some ideas some of you might want to think about, and maybe try, for a couple of reasons.

Less garbage = more money!

Reduce, reuse, recycle — and reap rewards. Really!

Hoarding gets a bad rap from many.  Some are joking, but many are serious.  Some of my behaviour could raise eyebrows among the non-frugal.  I even prefer to use the word frugal, instead of cheap or miserly.

I save or scavenge things like egg cartons, coffee cans, plastic containers, cardboard boxes and large envelopes. The difference between me and a true hoarder is that I use them, instead of letting them pile up — and they save me “a significant amount of money.”  In fact, such tactics save money in several different, interrelated ways.

For example:

  • The less waste  you generate, the fewer garbage bags you have to buy, and the lower your  disposal bills might be.
  • Buying in bulk  to reduce packaging waste means you get a lower cost-per-unit price.
  • Putting  leftovers into a pickle jar or bread bag reduces the need for foil,  plastic wrap or food-storage containers.

Repurposing used to be common. Outgrown clothes were cut down for younger siblings or reborn as quilt patches. Old buildings were torn down to provide lumber for new projects. My mother poured homemade jam into peanut-butter jars (which used to be made of glass) and sealed them with wax.

These tactics work

In a post on the Silent Springs blog, Vincent Smith suggests that “more thoughtful living” could greatly reduce waste. Why do we throw away an old shirt but buy cleaning rags?  Whether your motive is saving money or saving the planet, slashing waste is a giant step in the right direction.  We do things like buying in bulk to eliminate individual packaging, packing a lunch to cut down on fast-food waste, and bringing our own water and coffee containers.  You don’t need to contribute to that trash can outside Starbucks, overflowing with single-use paper cups.

I do many of these things myself and can attest to their cost-effectiveness. A roll of aluminum foil can last us a couple of years.  A used piece is often not “dirty.”  Wipe it with a damp cloth, to clean and flatten it, and fold it, ready to hold the next sandwich, or piece of pizza. Produce and bread bags get re-used until they shred.

We repurpose empty jars for storage, buying things like spaghetti sauce in Mason-mouthed glass jars, which later hold things like bulk cornmeal.  Wide-mouth plastic jars which held cheap crackers when we bought them, now hold bread crumbs and potato flakes, for cooking.  Not that we attend them anymore, but I have found Tupperware in the free-box at yard sales. A pile of reusable shopping bags lives in a plastic shopping basket in the car trunk.

We buy in bulk when we can, and choose large sizes the rest of the time. We make our own jam (sometimes using foraged fruit).  I’ve mentioned about buying condiments like ketchup and mustard in gallon cans or jugs, and repeatedly refilling the small squeeze bottles, for a fraction of the cost.

Adding less to the problem 

Not that I’m a green saint, mind you. For example, we drink a lot of Pepsi, and buy individual yogurts, both for the wife, who has a small eating limit, and for the son to pack in his work lunch. However, we do recycle the cartons and the plastic containers.

The municipal recycling committee recently complained about the cost of sending around a truck to pick up “air.”  I stomp flat, any plastic bottles or other containers.  As three adults, we often put out less than a Blue Box full of recycling.  The two adults, and two small children next door put out three, or even four boxes every week!

Recycling is not mandatory here in Kitchener, but I can feel it coming.  All allowable organic matter goes into our composters, but the Committee is also bitching that residents are not putting out enough in the City-issued Green Bins, to cover the cost of the disposal contract, so I guess I’m not the only cheapo in the city.  Compost includes tea-bags, coffee grounds and filters, citrus rinds and banana peels.

Bananas contain magnesium.  It’s good for you, and good for plants too.  The tea and coffee contain tannic acid, which also feeds plants, and breaks down the paper to produce good, rich loam to be used in the gardens.  We buy unpeeled shrimp (when we can afford a bit), for considerably less than pre-peeled.  The wife peels them and the casings also go into compost.  As the Indians taught the Pilgrims, seafood makes rich plant food.

We use cloth bags where we can, because local cities allow stores to charge five cents each, for plastic bags. We used to use those in the cupboard-door-mounted garbage container, but recently purchased a new model, and the wife prefers to use the ones specifically intended for it.  I save bags from trips to stores and vendors who do not charge, and use them for kitty litter waste, or carrying newspapers to the crazy cat lady for flooring in her kennels.

Clean ones are flattened and folded and given to our bookstore lady, to cut down on the number of new ones she must purchase.  Soiled or torn ones are accumulated and put out with the blue box, so that someone else can melt them down and re-use the plastic to produce new products.  One of our shopping bags has a little sign on it that says, “I used to be a milk jug.”

While I don’t kid myself about saving the planet single-handedly, there is a fair amount of satisfaction in not adding to the problem any more than we must. Also, it’s nice not to have to shell out cash for things like more aluminum foil, or sandwich bags, and reduced retirement income goes a little further.