My grandparents seldom threw out anything. Odds and ends were neatly stored in re-used glass jars of every description...everything from buttons, to rubber bands, to tea bags to twist-ties...each one had its place.
I thought of it as "pack-ratting." But it was not a mess, it was a collection of all those many things my own generation is so used to throwing away. My Grandpa's workshop was a glorious collection, too. He had collected out-of-date machines, and he used them for his woodworking whenever the newest and latest model caused his workplace to sideline an older version...he picked them up either free or for a very modest expense. They were built to last, and use them he did, right on through retirement. His workshop was a feast for the senses...barrels of different sawdusts stacked along the walls, the fragrant drifts of curly sawdust bits spilling from the tops. There were other barrels of unique woods...some planks, some odd bits, some long sections stacked neatly, awaiting use in one of his restoration projects. His tools were hung on pegboard along an entire wall flanked by a sturdy wooden worktable built along its length...vises and gloves and glue and other frequently-used items standing toward the back. When you walked in there, it was a symphony of fragrances, both pungent and heady, and motes of wood dust danced in the light filtering in from the windows. In winter, woodsmoke from a Franklin stove added its incense, and you could taste the air like a wine with its ever-shifting terroir.
A side table held a makeshift table of plywood balanced solidly on a series of sawhorses, its surface stained in ring shapes from the reused tin cans doubling as receptacles and mixing containers for stains, varnishes, and turpentine. There was always newspaper covering at least part of it. It's funny how memory hones certain images in sharp relief, while others are their blurred foil. Within that blur, there were so many reused items, and all this was normal and everyday to them...not extraordinary.
Fishing for rubber bands, or brads, or paperclips, or pennies has never seemed quite the fun when dug from the bottom of a handbag or junk drawer as they were to us children in those days from their designated glass pimiento or jelly jars, or canister. Wrapping papers were saved, pressed flat and folded, and had many reincarnations back and forth through different gift-giving special events. There were boxes of yarns, fabrics, tissue papers, styrofoam shapes, plastic bags, netting, empty gift tins, aluminum cans... you name it...all stacked in the rafters above the car in their garage.
I don't manage my possessions the same way my grandparents were in the habit of doing then, mostly because I've had to downsize the quantity so that it doesn't drown me in minutae and clutter...isn't that a western phenomenon...to have so many things you can't even store them?? I've cleaned out a lot of that, changed many habits so that there's not an incoming clutter trail, and I have a long way to go in cleaning up the plenty I still have to manage. I'm embarrassed to say that this will probably be an ongoing task (organization), yet I'm so glad I downsized! The reason my grandparents never had to downsize is because they weren't in the habit of spending the same way people do today.
That said, I have noticed that I want to use my grandparents' sort of frugality to fully utilize the things we do have (we are more deliberate these days about any purchase, and food falls into that category as well)...the things we do want around. Why should I have to go re-purchase string, rubber bands, twist-ties, etc, when I could be more deliberate in saving them?
I need to balance frugal saving so it will fall somewhere between extremes.
I need to find multiple uses for certain things, namely foods. As we tiptoe into the world of growing our own foods and making many things homemade, I want to be sure we've used them as fully as possible. Sure, we can grow a food we like. Does it have only one use, or many?
I'm starting a "Don't Throw Those Out" series as I run across things that may have uses beyond the point I'd normally have thrown them away. In most cases, nearly all food products can be composted in some way, if nothing else. I've been surprised at the interesting and unfamiliar-to-me ways our resources can be transformed into multiple products before they are considered Done For.
That said, I'll begin with citrus fruits.
Citrus fruits that are grown without pesticides or chemicals are good beyond their use as a table fruit or juice. Many times we just toss those peels away, and sometimes they don't even make the compost pile if we have too many of them. (But they make it back into the soil somehow...)
Our Meyer Lemon and Persian and Indian Sweet limes produced for the first time this year, and it has been such fun juicing them by hand and adding them into foods or making them into simple, refreshing drinks. Originally from Tennessee, the novelty of being able to pick my own lemons and limes has not worn off...I feel exotic and spoiled! I also feel a great sense of waste in throwing out those fragrant peels for no other reason than not knowing quite what to do with them. My challenge to myself is to begin thinking like my grandparents would have, were they blessed with a bounty of fresh citrus peels. Here are some things they may have done with them...
1. Zested the peels into small strips and dried them, to be stored dry and used as spice
2. Candied the zests by boiling and preserving by rolling them later in sugar.
3. Doing #2 and dipping them into dark chocolate for addition to a festive dessert or treat tray at holidays
4. Using the imperfect peels (spots, etc) as a freshener for a garbage disposal (even though they didn't have garbage disposals)
5. Slicing, drying, combining later with cloves and cinnamon in simmering water as a back-burner room freshener
6. Zested and steeped in an interesting bottle of vinegar...or kept in a small container of sugar as a specialty baking addition
7. Scrubbing elbows, heels of feet, and any other area of skin prone to blotchiness or discoloration
8. I use lemon peels to scrub my veggie-chopping work area after working with really pungent things like onions...it seems to neutralize the odors so they don't penetrate so easily. Works great with baking soda for scrubbing sinks and tubs, too!
9. To polish copper or scour stainless steel...just dip a used lemon half in kosher salt and scrub, then rinse and polish
10. Clean orange halves that have been juiced can be scraped of pulp remains and used as a fragrant container in which to chill individual servings of cold chicken salad, fruit chunks or chilled pudding
11. Good citrus fruits with skin imperfections can be made into pomanders by studding with cloves and rolling in a fragrant spice blend and allowing to dry.
12. Fresh, undried zests can go right into cakes and other baked goods. Fresh orange zest turns ordinary teriyaki sauces into extraordinary, and pairs well with honey or brown sugar for a glaze for roasted/baked winter squash/pumpkins.
I look forward to posting about other ordinary things that have further use before being discarded.
How do you use your leftover citrus peels?