Take what you eat and eat what you take OR Use what you've got

Take what you eat and eat what you take OR Use what you've got

I spent my summers as a child at a family camp run by the City of Berkeley up on the North Fork of the Toulomne River near Yosemite.  I was lucky to spend full summers there as my mom was on staff as the arts and crafts director.  We would arrive the day after school ended and stay till the very end of the summer season.  Berkeley Toulumne Camp was where I spent my happiest days as a child.  I adored the community feeling, especially as the only child of a single mom, and had so many aunties and uncles in the other young staffers - the maintenance crew would toss me up on their shoulders and the beautiful D-hall girls would sneak me an extra cookie out of the kitchen.  I spent my days playing in the woods, leaving treats for the fairies or swimming in the river or playing house in an unoccupied tent cabin with other camp children. 

For decades, camp was run by a wonderful husband and wife team, Bill and Elise Rhodes.  Bill had a reputation, and a well founded one, of being extremely thrifty.  He needed to be to run a family camp on the shoe-string budget allotted him by the city, but I think he also really enjoyed being able to re-use,-re-cycle, and re-think the purpose of things.  This was in the early 70's, so Bill was definitely ahead of his time in some ways, but being of the generation that went thru the Depression, his attitude was not so unique.  Bill liked going to fire sales and the like, finding supplies for camp, and would come back from a trip for supplies for the arts and crafts program my mom Karen ran, not with the leather and beads needed for the belt-making project ahead, but old aircraft machine parts and stacks of paper singed on the edges...."You can make something with these, can't you?"  Thankfully Karen was a very creative person.

At meal times, we would all gather after the third ringing of the D-hall bell for a family style meal served on long picnic style tables laden with plentiful food that Millie and the other kitchen crew would make.  Bill's rule that was spoken often but not in a miserly way, was "Take what you eat and eat what you take."  He enforced this goal of cutting down on food waste by giving out "Clean Plate Awards" to children who had successfully not wasted food for a few consecutive meals.  I was the proud recipient of a few of those myself.    


I thought about Bill and his philosophy of using what you have on hand and not taking more than you need today when I was taking photos of Simon's work on the chicken house.  We have been so fortunate to have so much wood and materials here on the farm leftover from previous owner's projects and just the accumulation of the years of use of this place.  Some of the wood lying around is very very old, and wonderfully weathered and aged.  Some is too rotten to be of any use, but we have found enough wood here to complete the inside of the chicken house and make nesting boxes, ladders and perches.  We also had enough old fence rails to build our kitchen garden, and will have enough wood to make a sleeping platform, the outside bathroom we have planned and more.  There are also buckets full of old hardware and shelves and old cabinets in sheds that can be removed, cleaned up and re-purposed.  

     patchwork wood 

Using the scraps of wood we've found has taken more time than if we had gone to the lumber yard and bought new sheets of clean plywood to line the chicken house with.  Simon has had to make a patchwork of wood, cutting bits and pieces to fit in across the walls and ceiling. The effect is definitely not posh in any way, but I think it is wonderful.  It represents our spend-thriftiness, our goal of lessening our footprint on the earth, and also Simon's patience, stick-to-it-ness and skill. 


We've carried on this attitude of using-what-you-got to our current green-house set up as well. We're in the process of getting a grant from the NRCS for a hoop house, and have just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund projects like this, but meanwhile, we needed to create a warm, sunny environment for our starters.  We've used Simon's old Subaru as a way of generating carbon monoxide to kill gophers in our saffron field, and now, it is our temporary greenhouse to help things grow.  I think Bill Rhodes would have liked this re-purposoing, but he probably would have had Karen paint flowers all over the car to make it look better.





Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published