What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

– two of our everyday bowls, cracked

Some days I chose what to shed. Other days entropy does.

As I forked up the last bite of my salad at lunch, something seemed wrong. I looked closely at the bowl, and found two cracks, long, deep, and about to connect. Another bowl in the set was cracked as well, I found.

The cracks are hard to see, but they're there ... you could have bowled me over!

The cracks are hard to see, but they’re there.

We haven’t abused them, but we’ve used them well. I suppose they’ve been bumped together too often or gone through too many cycles of thermal expansion and contraction in the wash. I’m afraid they’ll have to go to the landfill; we don’t need knick-knack collectors. If a bowl can’t hold hot soup, it’s got to go. But we’re grateful for their service.

shedding style: throw away
destination: the landfill

Comments welcome … ever been bowled over by a crack-up?


– new year’s duck

After a long hiatus of posting, we’re back, or at least shall try to be. ‘Nuff said about that.

Three autumns ago, as the winter holidays approached, I saw ducks in a freezer case at our Aldi. A vision of browned, glistening fowl ringed with roasted red potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips, carrots, brussels sprouts, and onions danced before me. The rich, warm smells wafted out of memory. It felt like Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Christmas and New Year’s all at once.

I bought a duck. And brought it home and put it in our freezer, because it wasn’t quite the holidays yet.

Holidays being busy as they are, the duck stayed there, because it just never seemed to fit into plans. Oh well, we can enjoy it anytime, I reasoned. Maybe I’ll even rig a rotisserie and roast it over coals outdoors. Maybe we’ll have Christmas in July.

Instead, the duck starred in its own one-bird version of Frozen, which had a very long stand. It played to a packed house of ice cubes, pizzas, my bank of saved seeds, cans of juice concentrate, and the ever-changing contents of our broth bag. But, former theater person that she is, Nimue knows that every production must eventually come to a close. Not another year, she insisted. The duck finally had to roast.

It came out a little tough and a lot strong. We enjoyed the red potatoes and wedges of cabbage I made to accompany it more than the meat. But I’ve taken the first step, committed the essential initial act, and often I like what I do with leftover fowl better than its first appearance on our plates. Hummm, homemade noodles with diced duck in a soup … barley and veggie stew in duck broth … but first, something Chinese.…

post-dinner duck, ready for refrigeration

post-dinner duck, ready to return to refrigeration

shedding style: use up
destination: pleased palates (I hope)

Comments welcome … has anything abandoned all hope in your freezer?


– my favorite paintbrush

I’ve had my Porter Paints 2” wide paintbrush for some 30 years. Not to brag, but it’s lasted this long because I’ve taken exquisite care of it. I always rinsed it out promptly, used a brush comb to keep its bristles aligned, hung it to dry, and stored it in its cardboard brush-keeper till that finally fell apart. The brush was worth that investment of effort because it feathered better than any other I’ve ever worked with.


But late last year it suffered a solvent incompatibility accident, and it’s never been the same since. Material has hardened to something like stone in its heel, and Nimue strongly suspects it of leaving contaminating particles behind in what are supposed to be satin-smooth finishes.

It’s not working anymore. And we don’t keep what isn’t useful.

But I’m going to let myself stop by a “pro” paint store and try to buy its genetic clone.

shedding style: throw away
destination: landfill (sob)

Comments welcome … do you have tools the loss of which you couldn’t just “brush off”?

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cabbage seeds

Today’s rather modest shed is of some seeds. The packet is dated for the 2009 growing season, and I don’t know how well or poorly it’s been stored. My germination test this spring wasn’t encouraging. But I’m interested in giving whichever variety it is a trial. I say that because the front calls it “Savoy Perfection” and the back “Savoy Chieftain.” Both are open-pollinated, heirloom varieties with crinkled leaves and mild flavor. I sowed 66 cells in a flat with about three seeds each … if that many sprout, I’ll have to scramble to find growing space for them. One step at a time, however. I’m content that this one used up something that’s meant to be used.


shedding style: use up
destination: gardens (one hopes)

Comments welcome … have you anything that doesn’t improve with age you might sow in hope of a harvest?


first semi-annual refrigerator purge and clean

A couple years ago we calculated that the energy savings of a new, efficient refrigerator would pay for its acquisition within three years—achieving a lower carbon footprint and economy together! (Which isn’t unusual at all, in our experience.) The local Big Box Home Improvement Warehouse had a basic model we liked on sale. It won’t sing to us as it dispenses mixed drinks from its door, but it keeps food chilled, which is the point.

Aware that we weren’t masters of refrigerator hygiene, we vowed to do better with our clean slate, and entered “purge and clean refrigerator & freezer” as an every-six-months repeating event on our shared Google calender. Well, 18 months have gone by … two weeks ago we began with the freezer, and today completed our first semi-annual cleaning. But it’s success and a good start.

Here’s what we shed: a container, originally yogurt, that some other life form was squatting in; a half-finished sports drink, which I can only bear to drink when I need the salts on a long, hot bicycle ride; the juice from a can of jalapenos escabeche; and half a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, which I poured into the other half-full bottle. Oh, and a little serving of Thousand Island salad dressing.


We’ve done better at keeping up with the contents than I would have guessed. But we note a population explosion of pickles, so we’ll have to become better apex pickle predators.

shedding style: use up, compost (the substance formerly known as yogurt), recycle (containers)
destination: compost bucket, community recycling stream

Comments welcome … any ideas for ways to consume several pints of various pickles?

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veggie broth bag 2

We’re back from co-leading (with our friend Diane) a weekend retreat for young adults on “green spirituality.” Having kept our goals modest, they were exceeded—a tactic I am, at last, accepting as wise when trying anything for a first time.

My hips, thighs, shins, and ankles are telling me to keep that in mind the next time I pit my 1957-model body against that of nineteen-and-twenty-year-olds playing “Capture the Flag.” The legs say, “We’ll propel a bike as far as you want in a day, but quick starts, stops, and sprints over uneven ground are discontinued options.”

It was, on the other hand, hilarious fun.

In consequence, however, I can hardly move at the moment. So tonight I’m recycling a previous shed; I’ve pulled a veggie broth bag from the freezer and emptied it into the slow cooker.



shedding style: use up, compost
destination: soup, the compost pile

Comments welcome … aren’t “take it easy” three of the most beautiful words ever assembled into an imperative?


final filling

An era ended today … I couldn’t pull another pen-full out of my last bottle of Levenger fountain pen ink.

A Parker 45 I bought in the UK for £2, a Lamy Safari that cost about $30, and bottle of ink, currently on sale for $10 + shipping from Levenger ... using a fountain pen doesn't have to be expensive.

A Parker 45 I bought in the UK for £2, a Lamy Safari that cost about $30, and bottle of ink, currently on sale for $10 + shipping from Levenger … using a fountain pen doesn’t have to be conspicuously consumptive.

I think I’ve had Levenger ink of one color or another (up to as many as seven) for over ten years, perhaps longer. I’ve especially loved “Cobalt Blue.” Though I posted about some problems with three Levenger inks here and here, I still think it’s a good product. One day I may order some again. But for now I’ll be writing with inks less self-consciously upper-class (and more economical), the old school standards of Parker Quink and Sheaffer Skrip.

shedding style: use up, recycle
destination: community recycling stream

Comments welcome … when is the average, the everyday, the unfashionable, good enough?


spice mix

At Christmas a couple years ago Nimue’s uncle and aunt gave us some special spices; I think they were all “rubs” of one sort or another. We don’t roast much meat because we seldom buy it, but we found other ways to enjoy the seasonings in soups and sauces. Somehow the last of the jars got overlooked till it was likely past its peak of flavor. When I uncovered it recently, I thought I’d finish it off as a shed.

I wanted to make a crunchy chickpea snack a friend once raved over. I cooked a pound of dried chickpeas the usual way, drained them, drizzled on some olive oil, stirred in the “rub” (there were perhaps three tablespoons of that), and spread them on our pizza stone to roast at 400°F. After 20 minutes, I started checking them every five. At half an hour, they still had soft centers. At forty, most were just right, but I thought five more minutes might finish toasting the whole batch.

I wonder what my crunchy chickpeas would measure on the Rockwell hardness scale.

I wonder what my crunchy chickpeas would measure on the Rockwell hardness scale.

That was five minutes too long, especially since I think they continued to dry out after I got them away from the heat. My chickpeas feel and taste quite like popcorn kernels that never popped—they aren’t any good, but one’s fingers keep probing the bottom of the bowl for them anyway. Nimue swears, however, that she won’t risk a crown trying to turn stones into nourishment. So, confident that what rehydrated and dehydrated can hydrate yet again, I’m now trying to conceive a recipe for a “blackened chickpea curry.” However that turns out, I count the spice mix and its jar as shed.

shedding style: use up, recycle
destination: community recycling stream

Comments welcome … what spices lurk in the depths of your pantry that might help you express your inner mad scientist?


bottle of basil-flavored vinegar

Homemade gifts are very acceptable in our families of origin, so some years ago we happily received three bottles of seasoned vinegar from Nimue’s parents. Her father grew the sage, garlic, basil, and chilies that flavored them in his garden.

I’m not sure why the sage-and-garlic vinegar got used up first … perhaps it just landed in front of the others on the pantry shelf. That left us with hot-pepper “sauce,” the traditional southern US condiment for boiled greens, and a bottle flavored with basil.

The hot-pepper vinegar will probably hang on awhile longer (we devour a lot of greens, but not prepared by boiling them). Tonight, however, I finished off the basil-flavored bottle in a salad dressing. Last summer we said our goodbyes to Nimue’s father, so I felt a bittersweet sadness as I shook out the last drops. And yet a great deal of the good of a gift is in its use. He’s one of the teachers from whom I learned that, as I learned persistent patience in the long struggle for eco-justice. As I put the rinsed-out bottle in the recycling bin, I thought, “This, too, is what Rolland did. And does, as his life lives on in me.”

Fox warns, "Prolonged use of hot-pepper 'sauce' to season kitty kibble may result in the loss of front paws."

Fox warns, “Prolonged use of hot-pepper ‘sauce’ to season kitty kibble may result in the loss of front paws.”

shedding style: use up, recycle
destination: community recycling stream

Comments welcome … how is your life soil for the seed-gifts of other lives?


large economy size “red wine flavored” vinegar

20140520-dlj-08.02.01-eI don’t remember when I acquired this large bottle of vinegar. I do recall storing it in a cabinet in a kitchen I last cooked in nine years ago. Notice there was a whole quart of it. Notice also that it wasn’t even cheap red wine vinegar, but “wine-flavored” vinegar. Ha! “Wine-colored” vinegar would have more honestly described it.

I valued quantity over quality then. Except I didn’t, really. I just thought I should, and acted like it. I’m more alert to that over-consumptive trap now, and fall into it a little less often. But I still punish myself for those old mistakes by keeping them until they are “used up.”

Yesterday, while mixing a vinaigrette, I noticed the somewhat dusty bottle at the back of a pantry shelf. The garlic and seasonings would have overwhelmed anything delicate, so with a slight sense of vindication, I poured the last inch of its contents into the blender. Today, I’m dropping the bottle in the recycling bin. I hope to keep the lesson learned.

shedding styles: use up, recycling
destination: community recycling stream

Comments welcome … when is “economy” uneconomical?

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