Energy Use

Live Simply that others may Simply Live -Ghandi

Spring has sprung...

New Robins join the chorus.
As winter’s grip begins to weaken, the first signs of spring gradually appear.  The robin is the herald of spring, along with the song sparrow and morning dove.  Two to four weeks after these birds come back to their summer territory; the peepers begin their chaotic yet melodious song.  Ponds and streams are graced with the presence of young frogs.  Their mating call is heard throughout their domains.  This sound is one of the few that lulls me to sleep almost immediately.  Around the time of the frogs, the ground begins to slowly thaw, releasing its moisture into the air.  This moisture has a certain scent, a sent like no other.  Flowers are planted during this time as well.  I personally experience great pleasure watching these plants grow and mature.  Even water has its own scent during spring, especially when it comes from a garden hose. 

On Penns Creek

Best known worldwide as a great place to fly fish trout, the lower basin of Penns Creek is more popular as a recreation waterway. Here, the waters are shallow and get quite warm in the summer, thus, not a great habitat for the famous Penns Creek trout.

We live on a waterfront property outside of New Berlin, PA (population 838). Although our closest town, our address is Winfield –a small village about 6 miles away, and our phone number is from Mifflinburg, a larger town 7 miles in the opposite direction. Thus, our actual “location” includes a 13 mile variable. 

We have had a tendency to move a lot over the years, for no other reason than to go somewhere else and do something new. When we landed here, it was home. It’s the place, in my heart, I never want to leave.

Living in a flood zone does require risks, but as I have aged I realize there are only a few things that cannot be replaced –and these are the things on our “emergency evacuation list:” the document box (so we can prove we exist), original artwork, and photographs. Otherwise, in the event of “the big flood,” there is nothing we own that cannot be replaced. Somehow living here and having that list makes me feel less attached and encumbered by the possessions we do own.

But I’m getting off track…

Having spent much of our lives working (we used to be dairy farmers, need I say more), the location was chosen because the house was small (less upkeep, expenses and care required), the taxes are cheap, and the location allows us to –when we’re not working, to live our lives like we’re always on vacation.

Because we live in our vacation home, we do more than swim, tube and sit on the deck watching nature. Our property includes organic vegetable and herb gardens and we spend many summer Sundays making pasta sauces, salsas, pickles and jellies, as well as canning vegetables, a task we enjoy as a family in both preparation and consumption! 

Since investing in kayaks, I have become addicted to the activity. Since the weather has turned warmer I have devoted myself to starting each day on the water. As the world runs off to work, I drive a mile and a half upstream and dock my kayak on the shore.

The one hour ride is my escape from the entire world and on the water at an early hour it almost seems no one else exists. 

No one human, anyway. 

Little cottages, black and white silhouettes in the morning sun, sit quiet while dancing fish create swirls upon the water and glistening mayflies tease them. While Canadian Geese bark at my presence and scurry away with their goslings, a groundhog on the bank doesn’t even notice me and continues collecting his vegetarian breakfast. Far enough away to feel threatened by my passing, the nesting duck stays poised on her eggs as I pass by. 

For one hour I am immersed in the noisy silence of nature. And then I am home. Back to writing, sipping coffee on the deck and watering tender garden greens. It’s a good life.

And despite all of the chaos in the world, and the anti-planet crowd, I feel confident that we can save the Penns Creeks of the world. Little pieces of the planet that were here practically before time and will be here long after opposers of wildlife are gone. In our little worlds, in our little spaces, we can all make a difference, one paddle stroke at a time.

Dress Yourself for Free (or almost free)

There are many items we can live without to save money; television, cable, cell phones movies, CDs, dinners out and prepared foods. But unless you live in a nudist colony, clothing is not one of them; and even there you might need clothes if you ever plan to venture from the site. 

So considering clothes are one of life’s necessities, let’s consider how you can get them and care for them for free; or at least pretty darn cheap.

Uniforms and the ‘Man Bag’

My husband is one of those guys whose job requires a uniform with his name on it. Most of the guys my husband works with change from street clothes to uniform; then back at the end of the day. 

We, however, have found that having him wear his uniforms as clothes adds additional savings in both time and money.  After all, the company he works for provides them free of charge, so he’d be foolish not to use them.

Each day at work my husband gets his uniform dirty, greasy and grimy. At the end of the day he showers. From his ‘man bag,’ packed weekly with clean t-shirts, underwear and socks, he selects clean garments to wear home; then he tosses on a clean uniform over them. 

Besides the money saved showering at work, my husband is dressed and ready for garden chores, animal tending and yard chores because he’s already in work clothes! When he returns to work the next day, he doesn’t have to spend time changing into his uniform because he’s already in it. 

Wearing a uniform at work not only saves on the cost of work and ‘day’ clothes, it saves on laundry soap, hot water bills and the cost of heavy duty grease cleaners, as well. And rather than a load of laundry with six pairs of jeans, flannel shirts and other items; my husband’s weekly laundry is half a load; 7 t-shirt, 7 pair of socks, 7 pair of underwear and a towel. 

Cheap or Free with a 50-50 Split

Thrift shops are a classic way to save money on clothes. I have used them myself as long as I can remember to save money; but if you use them right, you can clothe your family without ever spending a dime.  

Almost all communities have a Salvation Army or Goodwill; but tucked in your community somewhere is likely a privately owned second hand shop. These shops often offer a 50-50 split when you consign your clothes. 

For years, we consigned any outgrown, unused or unneeded clothes (in good condition). A few months later we’d return; check our sales success and shop with the money in our credit account. Sometimes we even left with change! 

Though we rarely spent a dime, our family was always well dressed for every occasion. 

If you cannot find a 50-50 shop locally, it may be worth your time to drive a few extra miles to another community that does. Often time’s shops are willing to send a quarterly check, providing funds to get clothes at your local Sal Val or Goodwill shop. 

And don’t forget to check for specials before you shop. Our local store offers 50% off the color of the week, a dollar rack (which I always check first) and ½ off senior citizens day.

Clothes Swaps

A clothing swap is like a yard sale; except everything’s free. If there aren’t any clothing swaps in your community, it’s an easy enough thing to start on a small or large scale.

Get a group of friends, or your church congregation or home school group, to donate clothes in good condition. Of course you will need a set drop off location; church hall, large garage, etc. Have participants or few volunteers sort clothes according to sex, size, season, etc. 

Set a date. Bring a bag. Take what you need. 

Arrange for your local Salvation Army, or a similar organization, to pick up whatever if left the next day. 


Most of us have learned to barter; a wonderful cashless exchange. Although it isn’t necessarily ‘free,’ it sure feels that way when you don’t have to write a bill for the total cost.

Bartering clothing is easy. For instance, a friend of mine needed a blouse for work; I needed a new purse. I had a brand new blouse that was a wee bit too small and she had a lovely purse, received as a gift but not her style at all, so we swapped. 

How often do we buy something without trying it on, or get a gift we never would have picked out? It always feels a shame to send it away in the donation box. Having a friend wear it or use it makes us feel better, knowing it will be worn, used and appreciated (and it eliminates a little gift guilt, too).  

Swapping works well with kids, too. Any of us who has kids knows other folks with kids; and not all of the kids are the same ages or sizes. Even if you planned to save a coat from your eight year old for your four year old, why not swap if for the years you don’t need it in return, say for a coat in the size you need now for the four year old?  


Now, I realize -excluding proms and weddings -the days of tailors are over. But we homegrown folks, who work, sweat and toil in the dirt don’t need to fuss much in tailoring. 

Every year my husband gets at least 10 long sleeve t-shirts for Christmas. They keep him toasty warm under his uniform shirt throughout the winter, but come spring the cuffs (which protrude from the uniform) are stained, soiled and frayed. They are unfit for swaps or thrift shops in that condition, but we don’t just toss them out. 

By that time of year another item of clothes is much desired; the short sleeve t-shirt. So, like Grandma Walton, I get out my shears and begin tailoring (e.g. I cut the sleeves off). In no time at all, a summer wardrobe has been create from useless clothes scraps.

Tailoring works equally well with jeans, sweat pants and flannel shirts.