One of my mum’s favourite phrases was ‘Begin as you mean to go on’, a simple idea about starting something in the way you intend to carry on or how you’d like things to end up. It’s perhaps more poetic than traditional New Year’s resolutions and has broader implications. I thought it was a fitting philosophy for my first post of the year, and about subjects dear to my heart: to work, buy, consume and throw away less; to consciously carve out a smaller footprint; and to be mindful of what our impact is on the environment around us.
I’m someone who doesn’t have lots of material wants. I think of shopping as a necessity not an anticipated event. I avoid online purchases not wanting to add to the coffers of one of the richest people in the world. I don’t make impulse buys and my monthly VISA bill consists of chicken and dog expenses, travel and groceries. I shop at our local recycling centre and trade clothes with friends. I think in 2020 I went the whole year without buying anything new for myself. The next year I caved and bought a bathmat. I hesitated over the price tag, then came back the next day and forked over $50.
If my frugality and thriftiness (other ways of saying cheap) seems extreme, that may be so, but I think most people spend money on things they don’t really want or need, often going into debt or working more to do so. I’ve worked for the same non-profit organization for the last 29 years, and for the last 22 have worked four days week. My ability to budget and save has allowed me to build the life I dreamed of when I lived in Toronto. I have a modest homestead log house and a cottage on 4½ acres on a small island off the west coast of Canada.
Where I have spent money is on my chicken set up: a custom made coop that my builders kept adding to as though they were constructing the Taj Mahal, convinced that my birds and I deserved the best (Thanks boys, I love it). I designed it and have never regretted how it turned out. My second coop was a freebie that my friend Tracy and I reno’d. Our goal was to spend nothing, but in the end I got a 4’x 4’x 8’ coop for $40.
One of the things I’m known for is my ability to find free stuff: either by posting ads on our community Facebook groups, responding to posts on Kijiji or Craigslist, scouring through the free pile at garage sales and screeching to a halt for stuff left for curbside pick up.
I explore every option for ways to keep my chickens healthy while spending less money: obtaining shavings from local woodworkers, pet food from my veterinary clinic and free produce every week from the island’s food recovery program. I have no shame asking for things, but I also freely give away what I don’t need. I figure what comes around, goes around.
When I needed help setting up this blog I asked online and someone I’d never met invited me over and helped me navigate the basics. When I wanted to post photos to my Instagram account without using a cellphone (that’s right, I don’t have one) a woman I didn’t know offered to assist while her husband took their dog for a walk at the local park. I find that lots of folks are more than willing to give of their time and expertise. I’m always appreciative and they know it.
My mother was a saver and make-do kind of person and I think her attitude toward material things and spending money rubbed off on me. She died in 2019, but before that lived with my partner and me for six years. She loved garage sales and picking up stuff for free. At some point she encouraged me to keep a list of my annual finds and I’ve done so since 2013. And every year since starting this blog I post my year-end freecycle scores that are related to chickens.
This isn’t a brag list, rather my way of encouraging folks that they can get the things they need for free, or often by spending far less than if they just went to the store. The sense of satisfaction I get not having spent money, or by making something myself, or relying on my own ingenuity to make something work is immeasurable.
This might seem like a lot of stuff (and it is), but it’s a pared down version of what I’ve found in previous years: flocks of chickens, a coop, a microscope and fecal float supplies, and building materials. Clearly I don’t need as much as I used to.
- 245 totes food recovery produce
- 103 cans and 10 bags of dog and cat food
- 33 pkgs veggie burgers/falafels/hotdogs
- 19 pkgs tofu
- 8 pkgs seeds (hemp, flax, sesame)
- 45 garbage bags of shavings/sawdust (coop bedding)
- 25 buckets of ashes (dust baths)
- Loads of egg cartons
- Bar fridge
- Egg sign
- 5 sets of Shelterlogic parts (frame for my tarps)
- 4 plywood chicken figures
- 2 fishing nets
- 8 new and used tarps
- 2 chicken art; covered ceramic chicken bowl; ceramic chicken clock
- 8 foam pipe protectors (for Shelterlogic frame to protect tarp)
- 4 rat traps
- 2 metal dog bowls and stand (chick feeder)
- 34 concrete core sample cylinders (edging around chicken pen)
- wire egg basket
The Superfoods & Natural Remedies
Since this is the beginning of a new year I challenge you to begin as you mean to go on. Find ways to be content with less. Save money by repurposing what you (or other folks) have. Explore options for keeping chickens without breaking the bank. Barter, trade, and get and give things for free. Keep a list, so a year from now you can look back and reflect on how a little bit of ingenuity may have saved perfectly useable things from the landfill and saved you from buying more stuff.
Good luck and happy freecycling!
If you’re interested in how I go about finding things for free or cheap check out Tips From The Queen Of Freecycle.