Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

A Year Without "Made in China" Review

After the tea ball experience, I find it fitting to give my opinion of the book,  A Year Without "Made in China" by: Sara Bongiorni.  The author writes about her New Year's Resolution to not purchase any products made in China for an entire year.  I won't give a full review of the book, for reasons of keeping this short, but I felt the book lacked substance.  I am a cynic by nature but the book really started to piss me off!

The book went from one item to another that needed replacing, and the author's struggles with finding replacements not made in China.  The author also focuses the book a lot on gifts to her children.  What the book completely missed was the re-evaluation of how much "stuff" we really need.  Not once does the author consider purchasing a product used or even foregoing the physical gift and giving the gift of experience for someone.  For example, the author's husband wants to purchase a blow-up pool for their son's birthday.  What about using the local pool or looking for a used pool at a garage sale, second-hand store, or Craigslist?  A simple example of reuse is birthday candles. At one point in the book, the author cons her sister into bringing birthday candles to her husband's birthday party because all birthday candles are made in China. She clearly violated the boycott, but then she turns around and throws them away and later uses tea lites for her daughter's birthday because tea lites aren't made in China.  What about reusing the candles----eliminate the waste?!  I have used the same birthday candles for 5 years now and they still have plenty of use left in them.

I was flabbergasted at the sheer amount of gifts the author's children receive throughout the year.  Again, it comes down to values and giving kids toys for everything which only sets the expectation of more toy giving.  It's that word again, STUFF.  How about the author take her children to the Zoo, park, swimming pool, or treat them with ice cream?  Why must she belabor the Made in China products when she's in the store trying to find Halloween decorations, when there are probably fresh pumpkins outside of retail stores and grocery stores in her area?

What about finding alternatives for things and use your creativity?  For example, the author hims and haws over the lack of beach toys her children have at the beach and then proceeds to steal all of the "forgotten" beach toys left on the sand when families leave.  How about using other containers (e.g. yogurt tubs, ice cream pails, etc.) that produce the same or similar effect even if they aren't brightly colored with star fish imprinted on the sides?

Has our ability to be creative in gift giving completely diminished?  Giving the gift of experience has so much more meaning and memories than a plastic figurine, whether it comes from China or not.  I understand that the book was trying to make a point about China globalization, but the book could have had more substance if it evaluated Americans' attachment to stuff; and how we can get the same quality of happiness without all that stuff.   Think of how much time the author spent researching and fretting about trying to find non made in china stuff that could have been directed towards time with her children, volunteering in the community, etc.

Bee Blues

It's a depressing day for me.  I don't know where to begin?  Should I mention that I was in the ER until the wee hours of the morning with my son who has an ear infection, or the fact that Jon is in Seattle for a conference and left me in charge of holding down the fort?  I am physically and emotionally drained but decide to conduct hive checks today because the weather is warm and sunny and I haven't seen any bees out flying the past few weeks.  Even in the winter, bees must go outside the hive because they have to relieve themselves; these are called "cleansing flights."

I hefted the hives a few days ago and couldn't tell if they were light or heavy, because after all, this is my first year keeping bees.  The weight of the hives should give you some indication about how much honey is in the hives.  So, I get all suited up and collect my extra frames of honey that the bees produced in excess last summer that I stored for the coming spring.  I plan to add the extra frames to ensure they have enough food until the fruit blossoms come.  I wedge my hive tool between the cover board and the first box.  The box snaps and creaks from the hardened propolis.  I look inside and find plenty of honey stores but no bees.  I repeat this procedure with the second hive and get the same results.  My shoulders slump and I unzip the head netting from my suit.  I immediately thought about the cold snap in early January when we had temperatures below freezing with strong East winds for almost a solid week.  Towards the end of that "snap," Jon mentioned that we should have put up a wind break for the hives to protect them from the cold strong wind.  I nodded in approval.  That must have been the demise of the bees because there was plenty of food inside each hive and I couldn't find any sign of disease.  In one hive I found a closely knit cluster of dead bees with no honey stores in their vicinity.  I shook off the top bees in this cluster to find the butts of bees sticking out of the honeycomb. These poor bees were at the bottom of their barrels getting every remaining drop of honey.  I remember reading in bee books that bees will starve within inches of food if the hive gets cold enough and the bees can't move.

For several weeks I have been worried that Jon had portended correctly about the lack of a windbreak, so I would try and hear if there were bees inside by suctioning my ear to one of the boxes and listen for the faint hum coming from within the hive.  For 2 weeks I swear I have been hearing that hum and imagining a little cluster of bees keeping each other warm and gorging on the fruits of their labor!  I have been mistaking what I was hearing all along.  I felt duped like I was listening to the ocean through a conch!  It's a bit depressing to lose my beehives before I could experience the full lifecycle of a colony of bees.  I will not give up though and must forge ahead to this new season coming up!  I will continue to network with other bee folks and hopefully catch a swarm this spring!

A cup of tea anyone?

Jon and I have challenged ourselves to only purchase products made in the USA unless the product is used from a garage sale or a second-hand store.  This is quite the challenge and we've already hit a brick wall searching for our first item: a tea ball.  Such a simple item, but yet very elusive!  I have spent at least two hours calling local stores that claim to sell only local items in addition to online searches.  This is the only tea infuser I could find that is Made in the USA: http://www.plymouthtea.com/tobyteaboy.html  I am a bit disappointed because it is made of plastic, and pouring hot water over plastic just goes against my efforts to use less petroleum-based products.


Until recently, I purchased tea in the individual packets that came in a shrink-wrapped box.  Recently, while shopping in the bulk foods department, I discovered I could purchase individual packets of local tea rather than packets of tea shrink-wrapped in a box.  I made the switch to purchasing the individual packets thinking that I was making a better choice because of the reduced packaging.  While sipping my cup of chai one evening, I thought, "Duh...why not make tea directly from the herbs and avoid the packaging all together?  Better yet, why not expand my herb garden to include more of the herbs?"  I felt somewhat silly that I hadn't thought of this years ago.  Herbs I don't grow can be purchased at the grocery store in the bulk section.  So...this is where the dilemma of the tea ball came in.  A simple small strainer will do too.  Tea anyone?

Update February 2011:  A close friend and confidant, read my blog and exclaimed, "I have a tea ball for you!"  Whew!  What a relief---I was ready to throw out the towel on this one and hope to stumble across one at a garage sale.  I made my first batch of homemade chai last weekend and it turned out pretty good.  Once I have the recipe perfected though, I'll post it... 


About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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