lace your boots!

We're going on an adventure. I want to delve into the realm of non participation with the global economy.
I'll try to learn about permaculture, squats, local currency, locally grown foods and free music and free food and free conversation and free friendship. I'll need a blog to give me a place to report. I'll need an audience to listen, care, advise, answer, argue etc.

Join me, it'll be fun.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Them's the brakes Kid!

So my brake pads are almost worn down to nuffin, I find out on thursday night, as I'm coming over the williamsburg bridge and grindin' and squeakin' all over the place. I'm in new york, trying to save money for future emergency, and need to replace them. so the next day I find some internet, I find some kawasaki dealerships and head on down. first one doesn't have the pads, second one does, 43 dollars, tax included. I take the pads outside and look down at the caliper. it's the front brakes, single disc, not too complex right? well the damn bolts won't turn, one is almost completely rounded off and the other is not in much better shape. the wrench that came with the bike, under the seat in the secret tool kit, is not gonna turn them so I spray it with wd40 and go bother my brother.
Colin, my brother, he's got a torch, so after I buy a lighter to spark the propane torch, $1.25, and a pair of vise grips, 11 dollars, I start heating up the caliper and fork housing that these particular offending bolts are stuck in. one bolt comes out with circular wrench my brother has, but the smooth one just sits there. after I set some rubber on fire, I give up on heat and go sit by the pier, read some jack kerouak and watch a would be wedding get all humbled by a hurricane, under the brooklyn bridge on the promenade that looks so lovely, by the east river that smells so foul.
So I can't crack this freakin' bolt! so I go to an art opening, see some good friends and good art, and the hurricane turns ragged and stubborn so there are plenty of soggy folks to enjoy the good art and stale beer. After the opening I don't feel like riding my bike around with questionable brakes, and so I hop in sam's car and we go get some chicken up in greenpoint. oh man, it was amazing. there was four of us, we ate two whole chickens, two orders of arroz y frijoles, two orders sweet plantains, one order of that battered squid stuff, and extra green avocado sauce which was amazing. all this food we actually finished, I did my part, half a chick, most of a plate of beans and rice, half a plate o plantains and plenty of that squid stuff. and the whole thing cost 50 some odd bucks? who knew you could eat so good for so little? so anyway we were really full, and me and colin were just a waiting for our bus when along comes the greenpoint lads, in fine form and fresh from a jam session, well we had to have a pint and we slurped it most greedily, but after all that salty food, I was almost too full to finish my beer, and almost passed out from dehydration on the bus ride home.
so next day was crepes at Matts house, then out to the bike. colin's brakes on his bike didn't work either, so we kept our eyes out for any bicycles left in dumpsters, or abandoned and mostly stripped on sign posts. we went to home depot, bought two replacement bolts, $1.65 a piece, and ended up in DUMBO around 2:30. I had borrowed matt's sockets that morning, and a hack saw from either James or Ian, I'm not sure who's it was, so first I tried pounding on a socket just a little bit smaller than the bolt, hoping it would make a bite and I could turn the sucker out. this almost worked, but not quite. next Colin sawed a slot into the bolt with the hack saw, with the intent to turn it with a screw driver. this resulted in two bent screw drivers and one broken one, sorry colin.
We couldn't fit anything stronger than a screwdriver into the slot, so I slipped the other bolt back in and headed back to home depot, promising to meet colin for the basketball game at matt's house later. now here's where it gets funny, I bought the biggest, meanest looking screw driver I could find at home depot, 7 or 8 bucks worth, looked like a weapon, and took it out there, clamped a vise grips down on it and give a hobo half a chance but that big mean screw driver's tip broke clean in two. well there I sat, despondent and wondering what to do, when along comes a middle aged fella with whiskey on his breath who tells me to take the tool back, get my money back. at first I am incredulous, "money back? after I broke the tool doing something it was not intended for?" but the man said "you got the receipt?" and urged me on, saying he'd watch my bike for me, and only ask for a few dollars when I returned.
Oh what magic is that word receipt, what joy! I started walking back to the store with my broken beast of a screwdriver, and as if by some magic of the store a man appeared, lounging on a cart by the large shipping entrance to the Home Depot. this man asked what the problem was, and my helpful and smelly friend of a moment ago said the screwdriver was bad material, and the magical man on the cart led me back to my bike. I explained my situation, all the attempts leading up to the twisted, mangled, slotted bolt he saw before him. this man's name was michael, an electrician, he led me to his truck and said he had a solution. some sockets have hexagons that they grip the bolt with, some have much finer toothing, and if he could find a sixteen sided socket he'd be able to pound it on and free my bolt. I was thankful, he led the way back to the store.
first to the return counter, I gave them my broken beast and they gave me my money, no questions asked. next to the tool aisle, and michael has made a great discovery. a tool that was built for removing rounded off bolts, with curving sides to get tighter as you turn them. I make for the check out counter, the store is closing and there is an intense excitement in the air, the staff are going home! the customers are going to build something!
I purchase the tool, 20 dollars, but michael says I can just return it tomorrow. we make it to the bike, I fit it on, take out matt's socket set and michael gives it a bang and a twist. there is an audible *crack* as the bolt loosens, an instant of pure joy passes between me and michael, we exchange smiles and names, I give him my heartfelt thanks and suddenly I realize he was looking to earn money. I haven't got any, the store is closed so I cannot get the money for the tool at the return counter. The sad look between us is one of understanding, me unable to repay him for the kindness that anyone could show anyone, if they had the time to, and he unable to earn his daily bread with his honesty and cleverness. we say good bye, I go to greenpoint to work on my bike and watch basketball.
next day I return to home depot, Michael is not sitting outside so I hope he has a job today, he is an electrician, I don't think I mentioned that. I buy a wire brush and a clamp, use the wire brush to clean up the brake cylinder, and the clamp to hold it back while I slip in the new brake pads. I then return both of these tools, having no foreseeable use for either of them. I have spent a total of 57.55 on parts, and about three days on labor, no more than a few hours any of those days. I probably saved about 30 or 40 dollars by not taking it to a mechanic, but I learned a valuable lesson. I don't need alot of tools with me, when traveling, as long as there are home depots in every county in the country. I also don't have to spend money on tools. I am of two minds on this. for one thing, I am cutting out the small hardware store from my valuable business by solely using and abusing home depot. for another thing, home depot isn't exactly coming out ahead on the deal either. should I feel guilty about this? maybe I should just start making tools, flint knapping and all that. I'd like any opinions anyone has to offer.

Anyway, Thank you!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Urban Foraging

I first attempted urban foraging with a group of freegans in New York city, is their web site. Their beliefs are listed on their web site, but honestly I had no such lofty goals for the evening, I was simply hungry and broke, and they were offering to teach me where to shop for free food.

Basic Rules:
1. Foraging starts around 9pm - Most grocery stores close between 8:30-10:30pm in NYC, this may or may not hold true in your area.
2. Bring plenty of extra bags - plastic or cloth, washable cloth
3. Wait for all managers to leave the premises
4. Get your hands dirty, and plan to bathe when you return home, gloves can be helpful.
5. Leave bags and/or dumpsters as you found them - Many store owners have taken action against messy foragers, pouring bleach into bags, holding garbage inside the store until the garbage truck comes, calling the police. Needless to say, it is best for all concerned if we treat our hosts with all due respect.
6. Talk to other foragers, to garbage men and any curious passersby. Have as many conversations about urban foraging as you are presented with, you never know who will lead you to the store that throws away cheese, fresh mangoes or other delights.

clues for badness:
smell the food, slightly alcoholic? maybe that sweet smell of rot? don't risk it, there is plenty of good food available.
prepackaged meals will swell their plastic containers as bacteria eat and produce gas, don't bother picking up burst or swelled packages.
White bread is always more stale than any other kind of bread.

clues for goodness:
fruits or vegetables with small bruises or scars on their surface, often these marks are easily cut out and the rest of the fruit is in perfect condition.
prepackaged salads, greens, cured meats and cheeses are often perfectly good, if a little past expiration.
Bagel shop that bags all of its bagels separate from other trash in one bag. same for grocery stores with bakery department.

My experience:
I've only gotten sick from eating food found in the trash once, it was one unpleasant bowel movement, and I knew the stuff tasted funny when I'd eaten it.
If you're worried about health risks, find experienced foragers, they'll guide you in the right direction.
If you're still worried, give your foraged foods the same test our hunter gatherer ancestors used for the majority of our history as a species. eat a little bit, is it bitter? spit it out. if it tastes good, hold it in your mouth and be aware of yourself. burning? numbness? spit it out. if it is nothing but tasty, swallow it and wait a day. if it passes through your digestive system well enough, you have a new supply of food.
My friend asked me the other day, do you eat for your stool? do you "put in" with an awareness of needing to "get out" again?
What if we were to give this poison test to all of the foods we eat, bread with rye or white or spelt flour. Fast food hamburgers. Spinach. Steak. Milk. What would we learn about what we need to eat, and what we can leave to someone else's foraging hands.
The assumption that what is gotten for free is inherently less healthy than what is gained at high cost is exactly the sort of thinking we must ignore. your health is not dependent on your wallet, nutrition is a choice that we make with our heads, not our bank accounts.

So Why Should I Dumpster Dive?:
you might say. Well here's my feeling, you should only do what you want. but here's why I do it.
A: very fun, sort of like scavenger hunt, or that shop till you drop tv show.
B: good community of people.
C: easy to save money, or work less, depending on your preference.
D: Variety! food you would never have bought before, now you have to learn how to cook? Guacamole anyone?

Any suggestions are welcome to be posted, please feel free to voice yourself.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fitty Cent Recipes

Banana Bread of Courage

juice of one lemon
3 ripe overripe bananas
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter or vegetable oil (whatever is cheapest)
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats or just more flour (oats are nice but kind of expensive)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

optional a.k.a. expensive:
one cup dates,
or one cup chopped nuts.
or one cup peanut butter, mixed with butter and sugar mixture

preheat oven to 375 degrees
grease loaf pans
mash bananas and mix with lemon juice until smooth
cream margerine and sugar, add banana mix, stir well
in separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients. when all else is ready, add dry to wet ingredients.
Quickly turn stiff dough into loaf pans. Bake 30--45 minutes. to test for doneness, insert knife into loaf. if knife comes out clean, bread is done.

Makes: 1 loaf -or- 12 muffins
4x this recipe, 12 muffins and 5 small loaves

Tassahara Yeast Bread

-Make Sponge
start with biggest bowl, 5 cups lukewarm water (test on wrist, a little warmer than body temp like baby's milk)
add 2 Tablespoons yeast (or about 2 packages) stir until yeast dissolves
add 1/2 - 3/4 cup sweetener
add 2 cups milk
add 7-9 cups whole wheat flour
mix thoroughly, cover bowl with damp cloth, leave in warm place to rise overnight, punch down, remix in morning,

2 and 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2-1 cup oil
6-8 cups flour, or until dough is good. good dough sticks to itself more than the bowl, can be cut with a knife.

form loaves, leave room to rise in whatever pan you place the loaves in. good to have your loaf pans oiled, if first use. (never wash loaf pans with soap, don't wash away good grease!)
you don't need loaf pans. Cookie sheets or anything made of metal will work. just keep it greased, and leave room for expansion.

place loaves in pans, cover with damp cloth, let rise 1 hour
bake at 350 degrees 1 hour or so. when crust is hard and bottom brown, bread is done.
let cool for 5 minutes before you cut.
makes 6-8 small loaves.
cool to add some rye flour if you can find it cheap, or white or whatever you have. After you have made bread once you will remember the right consistency and adjust the amount of flour you use accordingly.


The Fitty Cent Plan

Rule #1) Buy foods that cost fifty cents a pound or less.

carrots, potatoes, onions, chicken gizzards, cabbage, bananas, flour in bulk, rice in bulk, beans in bulk, sugar in bulk, cornmeal in bulk, whatever fruits or vegetables are in season. shop wholesale, small business if possible. milk fits in the plan if you count "a pint is a pound the world around", milk is best when transformed into yogurt, most nutritious, helps everything digest well and wards off sickness.

Dishes to Cook:
stir fry, bread, banana bread, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, soup, apple sauce, tomato sauce(if in season), etc. Recipes to be added.

Rule is meant to be Broken:
you will need cooking oil, you will need yeast, you will want spices, buy in bulk, share with friends.

Ways to avoid Spending Money:
Social gatherings that don't involve overpriced alcohol or food prepared by somebody who is working for money. Invite friends over for dinner, brunch, lunch, breakfast, tea, midnight snack, etc. Avoid guilty feeling when friends are coming over and you've only spent 6 or 7 dollars to prepare. Slap yourself if need be, Your Worth is not your Money!

Treat Yourself:
find cheap restaurant in town where you can eat decadently for under three dollars. bring water or tea when you go out. make cookies sometimes. dumpster dive.

The Story:
I was injured at work and collecting worker's compensation enough for rent and a little more. my brother and room mate was recently returned to the city, in credit card debt and jobless. we had a brow furrowed discussion one night of our finances and the tension made our dinner sit none too nice. the next day we independently came to the conclusion that if we spent only 50 cents a pound on all our food, we could conceivably live on $1.50 per day, not including rent and utilities of course. and so the Fitty Cent plan was born, and we listened to "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" that night. It was glorious.

Recommended For:
people who have a job, don't want to work so much, and need to put money away.

My brother and I found this plan to be very useful when getting out of a sticky financial situation, but became hooked on it when we realized we could use money for other things. My recommendation for anyone interested in using this plan is to give it a month. your memory of meat or cheese or strawberries or tofu or whatever it is you love to eat will fade, and you'll look forward to the next pay check in the bank, and the next plate of stir fried potatoes and onions.