Monday, July 07, 2008

Saving The Earth--With Papersticks

Waste not, want not. We didn't think about recycling when I was growing up. We just did it. My mother would as soon have sold her first-born [me] to the tinkers as toss a glass jamjar in the rubbish. They were saved and stored on shelves in the shed out back until she got a notion to make jam or marmalade.

The shed was also where we collected waste paper, in a hemp sack, for the monthly Diocesan Collection. But many of our newspapers, at least in winter time, never reached the shed. We used them to make paper sticks for starting the fire.

Once a week, our dad would gather a pile of old newspapers, and recruit us to help, since we had no distractions such as video games, ipods, dvds or computers. Dad was, at least in his own opinion, the fastest and best paper stick maker in the land. And we all aspired to be as good as, or better, than he was. He had the complacent smile and nimble fingers of a master. The air crackled with competitive tension and the rattle of paper as we fashioned the sticks, with varying degrees of skill. Looking back, I can see now, that making us want to be better at it than he was, was his clever way of getting a bigger pile of paper sticks with a smaller outlay of energy! I don’t believe I ever took his crown away....

It was no good if you rolled the paper too tight or too loose. You had to get it just right. If you didn't fold it exactly in half, you'd run out of paper on one side. And if your last few twists weren't neat and tight, so that when you tucked in the last piece it was snug and secure, the whole thing would come undone.

Our paper sticks were usually made from the Irish Independent, the Limerick Leader or the Cork Examiner. If you were in the know, that would tell you a lot about my parents' politics, and religion--Catholic, of course. We rarely got the Irish Press, and the Irish Times only occasionally, when Dad was feeling especially hoighty-toighty and intellectual. Besides, everyone knew that the Times was only for Protestants! I remember thinking how exotic it must be to be Protestant, one of the Five Percent, and breathe such rarefied air....

Our paper sticks looked like this:

Five or six of them were lined up on the clean grate in the fireplace. Lumps of coal were placed neatly on top. When it was time to light the fire, a match was put to the paper sticks, and as they slowly burned, the coal would catch, and soon there’d be a lovely warm fire, crackling away. Setting the fire was a specialized task, one I was, thankfully, not expected to do! I was glad someone knew how to do it though, since curling up by the fire with a good book was my idea of bliss.

We don't use paper sticks over here, though they'd probably be great for starting the barbecue....But I still recycle newspapers, and junk mail, and even the little paper tags from tea bags! Cereal boxes and all the excessive paper and cardboard wrapping that comes with our food these days also finds it's way to the recycling bin... And, whenever possible, I buy products made from recycled paper. If my head is in the clouds and I forget to bring my cloth bags to the store, I opt for paper rather than plastic, and reuse the bags in the kitchen garbage can.

Waste not, want not........Our parents had it right. We have too much and we take it all for granted. If we were all just a little bit more frugal, as our parents were from necessity, we could reduce pollution, conserve natural resources and leave some of the wonder and beauty of the world for our children and our children's' children to enjoy.


StitchinByTheLake said...

Hi Molly - I take my "green bags" with me to the grocery and save my aluminum cans but I don't knnow how to make paper sticks. Could you do a tutorial? I'd love to learn! Blessings, marlene

thailandchani said...

I can't help but agree. :) We all recycle here. Not as a political statement so much as just practicality.

Stomper Girl said...

I'm also a very conscientious recycler, but by far my favourite way of recycling is to send boxes and pots to the Cherub's kindergarten where they are fashioned into wondrous works of art!

jkhenson said...

Never heard of paper sticks, but love the image you gave-and the ones of all of you trying to make the sticks! :) I agree-we need to waste less! I appreciate the post! You are such a great storyteller (with a great lesson! :))

Unknown said...

Hi there.
Saw your recent comment asking about my short hair.
I chopped it all off for locks of love (finally!) at the end of March.
Here's some photos.
(Months later I am still dumping out too much shampoo in the shower!!!)

Hope you're well.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Amen, lady.

Those paper sticks look so cool!
How in the world do you make those, I want to learn!

You need to have a paperstick making class.


Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hear! Hear! Support every word you said. Now I will try to walk the talk too.

meggie said...

I had never seen those paper sticks. Our elders certainly recycled a lot better than the younger generations. I think it is true, that if you are raised to 'waste not, want not' it stays in your habits forever.

Unknown said...

We recycle and I have beenlooking for ways to bring less plastic andn packaging into the house. so far I have tried making some of my own cleaning products with varying success. I really like the shower cleaner, I am still undecided on the laundry soap but I am still using it. You can drop by my blog to check it out if you are interested.

Anonymous said...

We made them too but we called them paper firelighters. I am also a keen recycler, so keen that sometimes I end up buying vegetables, bringing them home, storing them in the fridge until they are long past their sell date and then putting them in the compost. I know I'm doing something wrong somewhere.

Tanya Brown said...

Picturesque memories and a wonderful post.

Our parents (or in my case, parents' parents) did have it right in a number of ways: be frugal. Distrust debt. Enjoy simple pleasures. If all of us did each of these things a little better, we'd not only leave the planet in better shape but not be in such dire economic shape personally.

Thanks for stopping by my blog to do a welfare check - much appreciated! I've had my nose to the grindstone for several days and am trying to discipline myself to go read others' blogs before I burble out another entry of my own.

~ej said...

lovely memories of recycling...and i'd never seen nor heard of papersticks, so thanks for including a photo!
the best we do now is using the cloth bags for shopping, i see more and more ppl doing that too :)

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Please don't forget the paperstick folding instructions...


Scarlett & Viaggiatore