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Food + Cooking

Extreme Frugality:
With a Cluck-Cluck Here
and a Cluck-Cluck There

Still fighting the good fight, but the chickens (plus a kitten and an orphaned blue jay) have come home to roost.
saving animals

Having won his recent battles with the marauding aphids, our Hero of Frugality (known to himself as The Frugal Dude) sought a few days’ rest in his rural retreat, when, unbeknownst to him, another plague munched through his land—even his faithful sidekick, Angus-with-the-Sword, didn’t see it coming. So, as The Frugal Dude slept and lounged before his Verbumtransporter, it was left to the ever-vigilant Lady of the Garden to arrest the onslaught. Spotting the new predator’s senseless carnage, she took immediate action: “Hodding, something’s eating the leaves … on everything!” she bellowed, using mere English so as not to tip off the enemy.

Thus, the war continues…

A close inspection of the damage leads me to believe ants are to blame, but, in truth, I don’t really know at this point. In fact, it’s so bad out there, I’m thinking of growing my own neem tree. Or maybe I’ll just stay inside and let nature take its course. That’s what we’ve always done in our own survival of the fittest experiment, but in the past we weren’t growing food for subsistence. We didn’t have 105 thriving potato plants (yippee!) or 76 tomato plants (all but 8 grown from seeds) or 50 feet of beets, 40 winter squash vines, 250 strawberry plants, countless pole beans, peas, etc. And, yes, the corn has survived thus far, too. We have never cared for anywhere near this many living things. In other words, a garden for us has never been for keeps. Since now it is, I will continue to fight.

Speaking of living things, Lisa’s mother-hen persona is in full force these days. Remember how we donated eggs to the local kindergarten classes to hatch in incubators? Lisa decided we had to bring home all those chicks. “We can’t keep up with the egg demand as it is, and they’re so cuuuute,” Lisa explained as she twisted my heart’s arm. “And Angus loves them.” We now have 14 chicks living in our garage, 3 of which look like their dad, Snowflake, the Rhode Island Red rooster, and the rest like their various Black Australorp moms. Then, a couple days ago, she was at a meeting with a client when a social-services caseworker warned the client she probably needed to get rid of her five kittens if she wanted to get her kids back. Guess who came to the rescue? Somehow—thank you, God—we only ended up with one, an orange male which Angus promptly named George. (He was given to Angus for his kindergarten graduation.) And yesterday, a baby blue jay was stumbling in the grass near the hen house, unable to walk more than a few steps, let alone fly. Birds of all sorts were squawking high above and an adult sparrow lay dead a foot away from it. Lisa informed me we had to rescue the “poor thing” and, as she cupped it in her hands, demanded I feed it. The baby bird, as if by signal, threw back its scraggly head, opened up its preposterously large beak, and waited and waited and waited … until I finished digging up, pinching apart, and feeding it a worm. It’s now sleeping comfortably in its own box in the garage with the chicks.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. As I write this, George pounces on my right foot. and then my left. Lisa says, between quoting from Organic Gardening to prove that we have to water everything as much as she said we did and not as little as I thought, “I was talking to this person yesterday [where does she find all these “people”?] who said we should get ducks. People love their eggs and, even better, they don’t tear up plants. I know somebody who has some ducklings. All we have to do is ….”

Frugal Tip of the Week “You should tell people how most of the kids’ clothes are hand-me-downs,” Lisa said recently. “And how we usually get at least one useful item a week at the dump.” She’s right. Go forth and seek free things! I realize not everybody has free “swap shops” at their local dumps, but those who do or those of you who live in cities where people put unwanted things out by the curb, keep your eyes open. We get clothes, tools, books, utensils, machines, and much more from our swap shop. The kids cringe when we do it, but gladly use the item later. And as far as the hand-me-downs go, it’s an age-old ritual that is best begun early. Lisa and I started getting 40- to 50-pound boxes of clothes from our older siblings when the twins were born, and we have been receiving and sending used clothes ever since. As a result, hand-me-down day has become a celebration instead of an embarrassment, as it would have been if we had tried to introduce the concept anytime in the last few years. Now, when the boxes arrive, our house sounds like a 12-year-olds’ slumber party, and it inevitably turns into an hours-long fashion show. Since we have no older boy cousins—except one, whose mom sends his clothes elsewhere—we enlisted a few friends with boys to send their leftovers our way. With the exception of underwear (for some reason, people don’t pass that along), Angus has enough t-shirts, Carhartts, and fleece jackets to carry him through fifth grade.