Empty Nest Recycling and Buying the Farm

or Kicking the Bucket or Going on for my Reward

An eker in an empty nest will make less trips to thrift-store drop-offs than the typical empty nester. Unlike most empty nesters, an eker does not purge so much as recycle the things the children leave behind. An eker strives to master, over time, the art of empty nest recycling.

Recycling Remnants of Childhood and Youth

I still have most of the children’s furniture. My daughter’s bed has become a guest bed. The chest of drawers is photo album storage. All of the children’s closets are holding areas for things undecided. The homework desk with all its sharpie marks and pen indentations became my jewelry making station. It now lives under my son’s double loft bed, where the built-in shelves make a perfect craft cove.

And those leftover school supplies! Backpacks, composition notebooks, binders, dividers, clips, pens, pencils . . . I’ll never run out of college-ruled paper or index cards.

I have a tub of pencils, some of which date back to kindergarten. The erasers are shot, but the pencils find new purpose, like marking measurements for flooring installation and greenhouse construction.

Most of the plastic tubs we used for school supplies have been re-purposed. The tubs are filled with canning lids, garden whatnots, and necessary miscellany. Spiral notebooks —some partially used, some untouched— are my scratch pads for scribbling recipes and grocery lists and for doodling or writing when I’m stuck in a waiting room. I keep a nightstand notebook for those seldom occasions when I wake in the night with an idea. The chalk moved to the kitchen chalkboard, where we scribble to-dos and to-buys. The school supplies are stealing their way into every room of the house!

Recycling for the Farm Purchase

As I continue to find re-uses for remnants left in my nest, I’m pleased with last week’s recycling move. A plastic multi-pocket folder has become my folder of documents for the day that I buy the farm.

empty-nest-recyclingA friend’s mom recently passed, leaving her children a notebook with instructions, last wishes, and all the useful information to help navigate a mournful final farewell. Her thoughtfulness inspired me to get my check-out papers in order. I scanned the shelves of school supplies for a notebook. Instead of a spiral notebook, I pulled out a purple, multi-pocket folder. The sturdy pockets will hold my last will and testament, cadaver instructions, information about my accounts, and some thoughts on how my survivors might survive the days following my death.

Recycling Beyond the Nest

The act of filling out death documents was laced with a bit of morbid dread. However, as I collect the documents and thoughts in the folder, that dark, alloyed emotion morphs toward the antipodal feeling of joy. I feel comfort as I fill the folder. I feel I am tying an important loose end. I feel the satisfaction of a gift well-conceived and well-given.

No amount of preparation can preclude the grief and regret of words said or unsaid, acts done or undone. My hope is that this recycled folder will make the journey through it easier. That the thoughts I scribble on index cards and college-ruled paper will bring at least one smile. That the pockets will offer one last gentle caress, one last comforting squeeze, one last I love you locked onto their hearts to float them well beyond that day.

I remind my children and myself that I expect the folder to collect many more years of dust in my empty nest. That idea of dust helps dissipate the morbid dread as well.

The empty nest recycling job is as yet incomplete. Far from complete, I would say. But with the Farm Purchase Folder in order, I have my eye out for a pretty something that could serve as an urn. Not sure I’ll find it among the pencil boxes and sheet protectors, but I’m searching. This, too, I do in love.

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2016

Confessions of an Eke Addict

Hi. My name is Pennie, and I’m an eke addict.

I eke things for everything they have. I like to squeeze all the life out of the foods and products that come into our home. A few of my peccadillos will sound familiar to some of you, even if you only slightly struggle with this addiction: boiling chicken bones or shrimp shells and heads to make broths, boiling rib bones to enhance the dog food, using compost buckets instead of garbage disposals, keeping a compost pile, and wishing the recycling truck would pass twice a week instead of once (the regular garbage truck could pass just once a month).

Although I’m an amateur addict, I know I am in advancing stages of this addiction because I have some less familiar habits.

My worms receive a handful of food scraps and coffee grounds about once a week in exchange for the castings they make for my garden.

My worms receive a handful of food scraps and coffee grounds about once a week in exchange for the castings they make for my garden.

I keep a second compost bucket for eggshells that I eventually grind for the garden. I have a worm colony that thrives in a tub outside my back door.

Cardboard boxes become seedling hosts.

Cardboard boxes become seedling hosts.

I use flat cardboard boxes from Costco for starting seedlings.

I mix eggshell dust and worm castings into my soil. They add nutrients, and the dust also deters snails and slugs.

Eggshell dust and worm castings add nutrients to my soil. The dust also deters snails and slugs.

Additionally (and this habit may border on eccentric for some of you), I ferment citrus scraps —peels and pulp— in reused plastic bottles to make cleaning enzymes.

To feed my addiction, I cull the Internet for ideas. Pages like Food Parts That Are Surprisingly Useful and DIY Life Hacks: 25 easy ways to reuse commonly thrown items make me jump out of my chair and dance around the room. No wonder I can’t stop. The possibilities seem endless.

Back to my addiction. I sometimes —this is starting to get uncomfortable, but I suppose this is why we’re here— I sometimes try to raise the dead. Dead plants, that is.

This was the week of the dead pepper plants.eke-1

I finally faced the fallout from the freezes. Dead pepper plants. Hundreds of cayenne, scorpion, and scotch bonnet peppers, now ghosts, snuffed out in their prime. Even the stems closest to the roots snapped dry, lifeless. I knew it was time to let go. As I took a deep breath and began to harvest the dead peppers to add seeds to my already enormous seed collection, a possible eke path revealed itself to me.

The cayenne peppers (did I mention there were hundreds of them?) were dry and crisp, like the red ones I had harvested and dried out months before to make cayenne pepper powder.

I could grind the cayenne pepper ghosts and make a unique pepper powder!

I was dancing in the dead pepper garden.

Ghost Cayenne Pepper powder! No. That would confuse people and ghost pepper fans would be disappointed. White Cayenne Powder? No, boring. This was making me dance. I needed an exciting name to fit the mood. Cayenne Angel Powder? Possibly, although still tame for the moment I was experiencing. Whatever it will be called, the deed is done.

Ready for the grind

Ready for the grind

eke-4

To the oven for toasting to remove any residual moisture

eke-8

White(ish) Cayenne Powder. Taste notes: not quite as spicy or rich as red cayenne powder, but tasty with a kick. Worth the resurrection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s my story this week. In a nutshell: I resist letting go. When something goes wrong or when something seems used up, I try one more time, one more thing.

This compulsion is not confined to food, gardening, cardboard boxes, and dead plants, but creeps into my work practices and personal relationships as well. I find ways to reuse and re-purpose the good stuff at work. A rift in a friendship, even a dismal one, is a path to healing and reconciliation, a way to eke more (and better) life out of the connection I have with that friend.

Dead pepper plants become a unique pepper powder. A misunderstanding with a friend becomes a path to deeper communication. I confess I will continue to resist letting go. I will continue to eke out the good in things. I can’t help myself.

Hello. My name is Pennie and I’m an eke addict. I’m not looking for a cure. I’m looking for enablers.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.