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Frugality a classic trait of the Adirondacker

July 15, 2012
By DON WILLIAMS , For The Leader Herald

When searching for words to describe the somewhat typical Adirondacker, we often come up with rugged and independent, ambitious, loyal to friends and neighbors, and meeting life in the mountains with a good sense of humor. Recently, when I was pounding out the bends in some used nails for reuse, I realized that growing up in the Adirondack country had blessed me with a sense of frugality.

Frugality, simply put, is not being wasteful; hence, I have become an expert on how to use leftover meals, hand-me-down clothes, and old, obsolete tools. The wise Ben Franklin believed that "wealth depends chiefly on two words - industry and frugality; waste neither time nor money," a good description of an Adirondacker.

Maybe, just maybe, I got my first lesson in frugality with the use of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog for toilet tissue in the outhouse. My "high-top" boots taught me the next lesson:?When the shoestrings wore out and broke, I simply tied a knot to get the pieces back together and used them until there were too many knots to get through the holes. (I still do!)

To save heat, my mother hung heavy blankets on our bedroom windows for as long as I can remember. And, living on our small farm, we produced much of our own food. A good example was our hogs; they gave us chops, headcheese, pickled hockies, lard and sausage along with the usual smoked ham and bacon.

We grew up with a couple other appropriate frugal sayings, including "he or she who is extravagant will quickly become poor," and "make it do, wear it out, use it up!"

They would do well to be recycled in today's throwaway world. In my estimation, there are some "frugality" habits that I could pass along, that, if they are no longer being practiced, could be easily brought back into our daily lives.

Re-using bags of all kinds - paper, plastic or burlap - has grown in popularity in recent years. There is an old tradition of Adirondackers using burlap for wallpaper along with tearing up T-shirts and other worn-out clothes for use as rags, thus saving on paper towels. Cloth pieces were also used in making all patterns of quilts to keep the beds warm in cold weather. Keeping old clothing to use when doing dirty jobs such as painting or tarring a roof saved on dirtying good clothes. Saving and picking up pieces of lumber in case they are needed for something is a trait that I learned from my carpenter/guide grandfather; his cellar was filled with lumber pieces of all sizes that he saved from a job or picked up when he was out for a walk.

Over the years, I invented or learned from others some frugal ways that are an outgrowth of that frugal Adirondack upbringing:

I knew that I was "frugal" when I realized that I saved old bacon grease to kill weeds, that I cut the plastic food packaging in half to get out the mustard, catsup or mayonnaise that remains stuck in the crevices, that I make funnels out of plastic jugs, that I can get two cups of tea out of one teabag, that I get my own worms for fishing, that I cut up the junk-mail and use the unprinted side for notes, and that I stained my porches and decks with butternut stain made from the nut husks from our 20 butternut trees.

There is more, but being a frugal Adirondacker, I have another thought:?"If I am so smart, why aren't I rich?"



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