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We made it through the Great Polar Vortex of 2019 relatively unscathed. How cold was it in Minneapolis? It was so cold that the university campus where I work closed early on Tuesday, closed completely on Wednesday, and had a late opening on Thursday. Minnesotans are hardy folk so this was a great and welcome surprise. The temperature Wednesday morning was -28F/-33C with a windchill of -53F/-47C and I am grateful I did not have to venture out to catch the bus. Even with the late start on Thursday, it was still -25F/-31.6C when I caught the bus. I was so layered and bundled up I was virtually unrecognizable. The only things showing were my eyeballs and if I could have covered those up too I would have!

James was not as lucky as I was and had to go to work on Wednesday. Except the car wouldn’t start. He called all the local car repair garages and the ETA for a jump was 3-4 hours. And then there would be no guarantee the car would start when it was time for him to come home from work. So he took a Lyft for the very first time. Super convenient and his driver was really nice and delighted to be the hero of the day for so many people. James had the day off Thursday and could wait a couple hours for someone to show up to jump his car. When they did, it started but there was no charge in the battery at all. So James drove it to our preferred mechanic a few blocks away and waited in the warmth while they installed a new battery. New car batteries have gotten outrageously expensive. They used to cost around $80 and now they are double that. Ouch. All I can say is, that battery had better last a long time.

The Dashwoods were troopers. We turned the heat lamp on in their coop Tuesday afternoon and kept it on until Friday morning. They suffered the indignity of having their combs and wattles vaselined not once, but twice. We plied them with snacks of hot oatmeal and hot soybean mash, scrambled eggs, and cracked corn. They took it all in stride. Of course now that the temperature has moderated they are wondering why we have stopped with all the extra yummy snacks and how dare we turn off the heat lamp. They looked at me last night as if to say, what sort of establishment are you running here lady? I am sure they will drop my Yelp rating from 5 to one star so it’s a good thing they don’t have thumbs or the internet.

James and I ventured out for a grocery shop last night and the 15F/-9.4C temperature felt fantastic! Hey, it’s all relative. Extreme cold wears a person down and we were tired, but still determined to make a zero waste shopping effort. And we succeeded! The only waste from the shop came from the plastic stickers on our produce. The kale and bunch of radishes we bought also were held together with twist ties, but we will be re-using those in the garden to tie up plants when summer arrives so many months from now.

I decided to not buy any yogurt in big plastic tubs anymore. Until six months ago I actually rarely had any but began buying a big tub to divide up into smaller jars to take to work for an afternoon snack. Yogurt seemed like a good way to add in some extra protein to help fuel all my cycling. I wish I could say the fermented oat flour “yogurt” was a success. It was, in that on our second try we got the flour-water ratio right, and we got it to ferment. But yuck. It tastes like sour dough and is not a good yogurt alternative. However, it might actually make a good sourdough starter so that’s something we might experiment with.

We are going to give yogurt making one final try. Allegedly we can heat the oven up to 150 degrees (F), put the yogurt mixture in, and then turn off the oven and not open the door for 8 hours. After 8 hours we will open the oven door and find a magical transformation has occurred. We’ll see.

But I have also decided that since I began eating so much yogurt for the protein, I can just as easily make chia pudding for a high protein afternoon snack. I love chia pudding, the swollen chia seeds remind me of tapioca, which I also love.

After experimenting with two potential toilet paper selections we have chosen Bim Bam Boo. It’s a smaller roll than the toilet paper we regularly bought but it seems to last just as long because you don’t need to use quite as much. It’s kind of expensive though and I am wondering if getting TP through Who Gives a Crap would be a better option. Their TP is eco-friendly and priced well and half their profit goes to building toilets and improving sanitation in developing parts of the world. But, you have to buy a box of 48 rolls at a time. Where does one store 48 rolls of TP? We go through about 2 rolls a week at my house which means a box will last me around three months. And then there is the question of carbon expenditure. Is it better to buy three or four smallish rolls when I go grocery shopping or have a big box of jumbo sized rolls shipped to my house? Anyone know how to work that one out?

The purchase we were most excited about was shampoo bars. Our co-op turned out to have so many to choose from, it was weirdly exciting. James chose an herbal one made with borage. I went for the SunLeaf brand. This stuff is made with 100% plant-based ingredients. They had such a variety of flavors it was hard to choose. I am hyper-sensitive to floral scents so the rose and lavender bars were out. There was one that was cedar and mint that smelled so earthy and lovely, another smelled lemony, another James thought smelled like Christmas trees. There was cinnamon too. My nose stopped working after sniffing three of them so I ended up going with the first one I sniffed, orange-ginger. I can’t wait to give it a try. Both of the bars we bought come in a flimsy paper box so 100% recyclable. Yay!

We are feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Waldo and Dickens have not objected to the Okocat pine pellet litter. We have eliminated all sorts of plastic, found some great new products that are both cheaper and better for us to replace ones we usually bought. A few items are a bit more expensive but I think it comes pretty close to even when all is said and done. The hardest thing has been not buying frozen vegetables or fruit. I miss having corn and green peas. And while we didn’t buy frozen fruit very often, it has always been a nice treat to buy frozen blueberries now and then in the middle of winter and make blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins. I still have lots of rhubarb in the freezer from last summer though. Not the same as blueberries, but I think I will task James with figuring out how to make a tart and tasty rhubarb pancake and some kind of rhubarb muffin or scone. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but it still tastes like summer and that’s exactly what a girl needs to lift the spirits in the aftermath of a polar vortex.