shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Homemade Salad Spinner

May 26, 2014

Our house is full of Dave inventions. When we find ourselves in a situation that is unpleasant, difficult, time-consuming or in need of improvement in some other way, we think, "How can I make this better?" Often someone else has already made a significant profit on "solving" the problem, usually with a piece of plastic junk. Rather than adding these gadgets to our small homes, we (meaning Dave) create our own free, or at least cheap, solutions using repurposed or recycled materials.

Over the past twenty years I have learned to never throw away a bottle, bag, container or closing device of any kind without first asking, "Do you want this for something?" All rubber bands and twisty ties are kept for future closing purposes. I pour my homemade laundry detergent into used orange juice bottles. Sprouts are stored upside down in former mushroom containers. Plastic grocery bags have been used to line trash cans for so many years that they are now called "trash bags" in our family. Salad dressing jars hold our homemade chocolate syrup. Jelly jars store bacon grease. The list surprises even me when I look around the cabin and actually consider the original purpose of many of our "gadgets."

Place lettuce loosely in the bottom of the bag.

Even those items that are not normally kept for future reuse still get the customary question before being put in the recycle bin. Usually the conversation about the bags that onions and oranges come in goes like this. "Do you want this for something?" Long pause, extreme concentration, pained expressions and a dejected sigh followed by, "No. I just haven't found a good use for them yet." But this time the pause, concentration and look of consternation turned into a grin and a finger snap. "YES! Keep that one. I've got an idea." Heaven help me.

Hold the bag by the open end.

Our garden, part of the "year on land" experiment, has been one success story after another so far this year. Before the heat got too bad, our lettuce was feeding us at least four meals a week. But Florida dirt is really just brown sand and cleaning lettuce has become a dreaded chore. There is nothing worse than chomping down on a grain of sand in your salad. Even running water hasn't made this task much easier, since removing the water after you've cleaned the leaves is almost as difficult as removing the dirt/sand. The first few attempts were time-consuming, shaking the water off every leaf individually. Then came the statement we both hate to hear the other say. "I'm going to buy a...." We usually ignore the intended buyer, knowing that the difference between making the dreaded "buy" statement and actually paying for something is usually great enough to prevent adding a gadget to our small home. This time, it was a salad spinner that Dave was threatening to buy. I ignored him but then wasn't the slightest bit surprised when he found a use for the bag the oranges came in.

Spin in small, fast circles.

He washed the lettuce leaves as normal, then loosely placed them in the bottom of the bag. He went outside and, holding the open end of the bag, gently swung it in a large circle several times. His first attempt proved to be too gentle, since there was still too much water on the leaves. He returned the lettuce to the bag and this time swung it in smaller, faster circles, more closely mimicking a "real" salad spinner. As usual, I was shocked at how well it worked. The lettuce was dry but not damaged by the process. No clean up required, since we buy oranges every few days so we can always replace our spinner when it gets torn or dirty. Because fruit is so often sprayed, however, we do recommend that you wash the bag before putting your freshly grown (or even store-bought) lettuce in it to spin.

Dry lettuce. No gadget required.

The simple habit of questioning how you can reuse an object before you automatically throw it away can provide you with inventive, free gadgets that are just as efficient as plastic junk that you pay money for and then have to throw away when it breaks. Besides, our salad spinner stores in just a few square inches. Even we have enough room for that.

Feel free to share your most original repurposed invention, either at Contact Us above or on Facebook. We love to hear how other people avoid mass market junk, too.

While researching a completely unrelated book, I came across a boating book written for children in 1931. MONDAY we'll share some of the advice that is as relevant for cruisers today as it was for boating children 80 years ago.

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