I don’t often get too personal around here. But it occurred to me that some of you might be interested in what a typical day in the life of this low-income/simple-living tax resister is like. People sometimes have strange ideas about how I live (“Gross’ ascetic lifestyle”).
On a typical morning I’ll get up around 8:30 or so, depending on when my cat goes off. First thing, I’ll grind up some beans and brew a pot of coffee, then get on-line for a spell.
When my sweetie finishes up her morning routine and heads out to the office, I shower & shave (or not, if I’m having a grubby day), brush my teeth, and hunt up some breakfast: often microwaved leftovers from last night’s dinner, but sometimes an omelet (we’ve started buying eggs from a friend who raises chickens) or just some toasted home-baked bread (a second-hand bread machine takes the drudgery out of kneading, so I make bread often).
Then it’s back to the computer. Lately I’ve been trying to finish off one technical writing contract while hunting up others, helping NWTRCC set up their upcoming new web site design, keeping this blog up-to-date, ripping some library audiobooks to my MP3 player (a hand-me-down gift), doing some freelance writing, reading various blogs and news sites and such, and engaging in plenty of that aimless eDithering that keeps us all so busy these days.
Over the course of the day, I may visit our local library branch to pick up or drop off books and DVDs, or I might go to the YMCA to exercise or do a yoga class. I’d been considering dropping my YMCA membership ($40/month) but so far that strikes me as a penny-wise, pound-foolish sort of move, and I’m sticking with it in spite of the cost. Maybe one day I’ll be disciplined enough to stick to an exercise regimen outside of the gym, but I’m not there yet.
I may also wander down to San Francisco Brewcraft to pick up some brewing supplies. I currently have five and a half gallons of hard cider fermenting in my large carboy — I started it on the already-yeast-ridden dregs from an earlier batch to save money on wine yeast. When that’s ready to bottle, maybe this weekend, I’m going to start the first of two west-coast-style (hoppy) pale ales, then, when I move the first one to the secondary fermenter (a somewhat smaller carboy), I’m going to pitch the second batch onto the yeast-ridden sediment from the first (just as I did with the cider). The apple juice for five gallons of cider costs me maybe $20–$25; a five gallon batch of beer runs maybe $35–$40, depending on the style. One of my carboys was a hand-me-down, another I got from Freecycle, the larger one I bought new.
The library, the YMCA, and San Francisco Brewcraft are all within walking distance of my front door. If I have to go further afield, for instance to my Spanish tutor, I usually take the bus. This costs $2.00, which includes a transfer that’s good for an hour and a half (though often the drivers are generous and tear you off a transfer that’s good for two hours or more). When I moved up to San Francisco a decade ago, bus fare was less than half that (you could get a pack of ten tokens for $9).
Lunch is usually leftovers again, though sometimes I’ll carve up some fruit or slice up some cheese or something. Once in a while I’ll go out and pick up a sandwich from one of the Vietnamese places in the neighborhood. These run about $3–$4.
There’s always something to do around the apartment: cleaning the kitchen, tidying up, keeping the cat happy, weeding the herb bed, bottling beer, and what have you. We keep a list of household projects that need doing, and, when we have some weekend time and feel the inspiration, we try to knock an item or two off the list. We do our laundry at the laundromat, which usually takes a hunk out of a couple of our Sundays each month.
At some point during the day I’ll start thinking about what to do for dinner. I’ve saved a lot of recipes I like the look of on a wiki that my sweetie & I use to keep track of household stuff. But lately, I’ve been using an on-line recipe planner called SuperCook with which you keep track of the ingredients you have on hand and it tells you recipes you can make with the fewest additional ingredients. This helps me use the food we have more efficiently, and also means that many days I don’t need to do any additional food shopping (we often have ingredients on-hand because of our vegetable garden and because we get food in bulk from two CSA programs: one for veggies and one for meat).
It being , there isn’t much in our vegetable garden yet, but most of the herbs have weathered the winter well, and I can go down our back stairs to harvest lavender, marjoram, chives, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme. We’ve also still got a lot of garlic braided up from last year’s harvest.
If I do need to shop for dinner, most of what I need is close. There are four vegetable markets and a fishmonger in walking distance, and a large but quirky grocery across the street. My sweetie has sworn off CAFO meat, so if I need something we didn’t get from our meat CSA, I have to go a little further afield, as our local butchers can’t help us here. (For fish, we just stick to the Monterey Bay Aquarium guidelines for responsible consumption.)
In the evening, unless I have a yoga class or Spanish tutoring (for the last few years, I’ve been swapping Spanish tutoring for English tutoring with someone for an hour and half once a week), I’m usually working with food. I enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes, and, thanks to being able to work from home, I’ve got the time it takes to tackle even recipes that require a lot of prep. The trick is timing things so they’ll be ready around the time my sweetie gets off work, finishes her peninsula commute, and finds parking; every night is a little different. For this reason, I tend to do a lot of mise en place stuff, just like in the cooking shows on TV. I often make big portions so there will be leftovers to eat during the next day (my sweetie will pack some in a lunch bag the night before and take it to work).
My sweetie is our green-thumb, and she’s set up a compost bin and a worm bin in the yard that turn our kitchen waste into plant nutrients. But some of our kitchen scraps I divert before they hit the compost bucket. I use onion skins, carrot peels, chicken carcasses, and the like to make stock, which I put in mason jars and freeze. I use stock all the time in recipes, or use it instead of water when cooking something like rice to make the meal more rich-tasting and nutrient-filled.
After dinner, it’s all about relaxing. From time to time we’ll go out and visit friends, but more often we stay in: reading, wasting time on-line, or watching a movie from Netflix or the library. That, a glass or two of homebrew, and a lap full of cat, make for a very comfortable end of the day.