Friday, January 31, 2014


I am on my way out to do some erranding in town this morning, and one of my tasks is to find a new candy thermometer to use in my jam-making.  My old one wore out and then finally broke.  First, the numbers wore off so I couldn't tell what the temperature was.  Then the casing around the thermometer itself broke, to a point where using it was dangerous (mercury in your marmalade is never a good food additive, IMO).

One of the hallmarks of homesteaders, though, is that we try and choose products that will last a long time, recognizing that cheaply-made metal or plastic tools simply result in more "fill" in the local landfill.  But that can be a challenge, given the mass-production of most goods on the market these days.

So how do you decide what to buy when choosing kitchen or yard tools, furniture, or even building materials for your home?  Because, so often, eco-friendly (or just built-to-last) also means prohibitively expensive.  And USA-made is also often more expensive than imported.

My solution is to be aware of these things and do let them guide your choices to some extent, but not to let it ruin your day if you can't. Pay more when you can, if its obvious something is of better quality.  But if its not in your budget, there's no sense in going into debt or racking yourself with guilt over it.

In general, antique store finds last longer than today's store bought goods, simply because they were made better....unless it's electronic, in which case "older" can also equate to "fire hazard."

I have a manual hand mixer from 1934, plates from the 1950's (sans lead) and wooden utensils of all kinds -- spoons, spatulas and potato mashers, all because I figure if those things have lasted a half-century, they'll last for me, too.  But things like candy thermometers.....well, you just have to take what you can get.  Not too many 50 year-old candy thermometers out there.

The one thing I do know is that you can sit up nights, losing sleep, because you're worried about the eco-friendliness of your choices. A couple of years ago I had to choose flooring for the house, and I went with laminate over bamboo because of cost.  And now I find out that my friend who does have bamboo floors is replacing them because they scratch too easily and already look ruined.  So how eco-friendly did that turn out to be? 

Sometimes it's between the devil and the deep blue sea....the laminate that will last, versus the bamboo that is eco-friendly but will show scratches like crazy. Or using 50 gallons of precious drinking water to clean an empty jar of peanut butter before throwing it into the recycling, versus just throwing the dirty jar into the trash and leaving it at that.  Which is better?  You got me.

 I just know that you have to make the best choice based on what's available and then live with it.

Over the years I have learned that one thing that often comes with eco-mindness is eco-guilt.  and eco-guilt is usually a double edged sword, good only for cutting yourself up and feeling bad.  

As they used to say when we took tests in grade school, just do your best.  Who can ask anything more?


  1. It took me a long time to learn what you're saying, but it really is tremendously valuable. I think it's easy to feel an Eco-friendly life has to be all or nothing. But if one does what he/she can when he's able to do it, it's a step in the right direction. I love the expression "between the devil and the deep blue sea"!!!
    I hear you on the candy woes. I don't even have one anymore because they never hold up! If you find a winner, let me know!
    It is especially difficult choosing kitchen equipment because for people like you and me who demand a lot from our equipment, usually only the best (and very expensive) will stand the test of time. The only exception is of course Pyrex. Which is god's gift to home cooks for being well-made and inexpensive.

    1. Wish I had better news on the candy thermometer front, but I ended up having to get another cheapo one, just like the last one! So now I have to take my own advice and not feel guilty about it! Oh well. You and I both demand a fair amount from our kitchen tools, so maybe I'm just expecting too much! And yes, thank God for Pyrex -- what an invention -- SO durable, and inexpensive to boot!