Old Habits Die Hard

July 17, 2014 § 19 Comments


I received the nifty shirt pictured above in the mail. Someone who reads this space made it and passed it along to my Uncle Kent who sent it to me, attached to a request for a photo of the shirt being used the way a shirt should be used on a small farm, which in this case was as a buffer between my pale, sunken (but deceptively strong and capable!) chest and the pig I dressed yesterday afternoon. I liked the shirt when I got it. I like it better now that it’s broken in.

Unless they’re gifted, I don’t get new clothes very often. None of us do. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time; probably it was early 2013, when Penny came home from the annual Darn Tough factory sock sale lugging something like 40 pairs of wool hosiery she’d paid less than $100 for. Not bad, and let me tell you, them are some good socks.

Most of our clothes come from thrift stores or yard sales. Penny’s real good about walking a fine line between thinking a season or two ahead and outright hoarding; really, that’s the only way to be a thrift store shopper. If you wait until you actually need something, you’re too late. I mean, you might find what you’re looking for. Then again, you might not.

One of the benefits of having children who don’t attend school is that they’re almost completely unselfconscious about what they wear. The fellas think nothing of wearing second-hand clothing and they’re not bothered the least by the occasional “girly” print or style. The other benefit is that there’s really no reason for their clothes to be clean, at least not a regular basis. So we simply don’t need as much clothing. Nor do we need to do as much laundry. I guess that’s what’s called a win-win.

It’s stunning to me how much people are willing to pay for clothing. Not long after Penny brought me home a real nice pair of Johnson Woolen Mills wool pants she bought for a ten spot, I got online to see what they’d cost new. I can’t remember the exact price, but it was closing in on $200. Wowza. Or even a new pair of work pants – hell, you can spend $50 for a pair of Carhartts. It’s not that either of these items aren’t worth it; truth is, if I had to buy new clothes, I’d pay what I needed to get the right stuff. We use our clothes hard and we’re outside a lot at times of the year when nudity is a really bad idea (the rest of the year, it’s a like friggin’ free love artist colony for all the skin we’re flashing. There. That’ll sure-as-shootin’ keep you from stopping by unannounced)

To be fair, I am working off a stash of brandy-new work pants I bought on deep discount a bunch of years back. Sometimes, I think the only thing standing between me and letting my waistline go all to hell is the simple fact that I’ve still got all those pants I need to fit into. I don’t mind a paunch; it’s the idea of losing those pants that kills me. I think I have three pair left; once those are gone, I’m really gonna start stuffing face. I’m also slowly working my way through a quartet of leather work boots I bought at Willey’s in nearby Greensboro maybe a half-decade ago. They were having a huge closeout sale and I got all four pairs for less than $100. That was a good score.

Penny’s even more frugal than me. With some frequency, she still wears a pair of shorts she owned in high school. I remember her having those shorts patched by a seamstress for $1 in a little fishing village on the island of Tobago, where we went for a bike tour a few years before we started breeding. I remember telling her maybe it was time to retire those old shorts. That was at least 15 years ago.

Anyway. My intent was merely to post the photo of me in my new pig-blood-christened shirt and say “thank you” to the kindly person to sent it my way. But as usual, I got to blabbing. I guess old habits die hard.


§ 19 Responses to Old Habits Die Hard

  • Eumaeus says:

    “before we started breeding” hilarious. My son was recently asking how Mama & I “mated”

    Yep, put the word “nudity” in your post and you’ll get all kinds of good search engine results. Go for it.

    But, to clothes, yes. There are people who shop at Goodwill. And then there are people who only shop at Goodwill on first Saturday sales. We are in there somewhere. I’ve found that if you want something and you can be patient enough. YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND IT CHEAPER. and if you are extremely patient. YOU will LIKELY FIND IT FREE.

    and yes “but deceptively strong and capable!” very good too…. rock on

  • Kent says:

    GREAT portrait of a great man in a great (newly christened) shirt! The shirt is a gift of your admiring fan, artist Ashley Van Etten, who designs and prints shirts and other fabric items. (http://www.willywaw.com)

    • ncfarmchick says:

      I bought my boys the Homegrown shirts worn by Ben’s boys (and made by Ashley) in a picture accompanying one of his posts last year. They are great and she was exceptionally nice to deal with. Something worth buying new (actually, I think it was their first new shirt ever)!

  • Dirk Anderson says:

    Does Penny still have that John Deere ball cap that’s nothing but brim and frayed webbing? It’s more the suggestion of a hat than an actual one.

  • Pam R. says:

    For the last 25 years, we’ve bought clothes almost exclusively from tag sales. Goodwill/Salvation Army are too expensive for us. And we wear them to rags. Then save them for rags. If you are out there bright and early every Saturday morning, you will find some astounding deals.

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      Yeah, I agree about Goodwill/SA. We gave up on them long ago. I swear sometimes their stuff is more expensive than new!

  • “One of the benefits of having children who don’t attend school is that they’re almost completely unselfconscious about what they wear.”

    I completely agree with this! My kids have far fewer clothes than many of their peers and don’t care too much about what they wear. My oldest now sews her own clothes, and some for her sister, which has been really fun.

  • ncfarmchick says:

    My whole family (Mom and Dad, too) volunteer at our church’s charity thrift shop and it is the only place we shop for clothes. We often marvel that the frugal among us rely on those who are not when it comes to finding great quality barely-used clothing for next to nothing. If people didn’t buy things they end up not using, this wonderful source of reasonably priced clothing would disappear. The fact that all of the proceeds go to local community service agencies just makes the deal even sweeter. I, too, still have some clothes from high school. Penny is a cool chick, in my book!

  • amy says:

    We do clothes shopping (when we have to) at the Goodwill stores in the city, on “10 for $10″ day. My daughter is giddy at getting so much stuff practically free, and when we outgrow (or use up) old stuff, it’s no crime to just toss it. Usually we’ve gotten our $1 out of it.

  • Hillary Clinton says:

    When we left the White House we were dead broke and Goodwill was way too expensive for us. I mean, really, crocs for $3.50, aren’t they cheaper than that new at Wal-Mart? Anyway, so we started using rocks and logs to process the fibers from the yucca plant. From these I was able to make Chelsea some clothes and Bill a loin cloth. Remember me in 2016!

  • Martha Caldwell-Young says:

    I used to make a lot of my clothes until I discovered the joys of thrift store shopping. I quickly learned my son, as a little kid, had no concerned about what he wore. I still shop primarily from thrift stores; I love spending $20 for a big bag of clothes what will last me for years.

    This if off topic, Ben, but I was wondering if you’re familiar with Charles Eisenstein. The link below leads to a section from his book “The Ascent of Humanity,” dealing with the evolution of American public education. His writing is helping me to view my family’s story from within a larger context. I can now see the effects of society’s imperative for control and how that played into my lack of understanding when my son’s creative and intuitive nature rebelled at being painfully molded by an educational system designed to produce compliant citizens of an emerging corporate state. My whole life, I’ve been the obedient “soldier,” so to speak, following orders at school and at work. My son’s need to be free of arbitrary constraints was too powerful – he eventually walked away from all of it. His was a dramatically different experience from that of your sons. I wonder how he would have fared if given their opportunities.

    • Ben Hewitt says:

      I know Charles. I haven’t read Ascent, but loved Sacred Economics. Actually, he blurbed my forthcoming book… it’s in the sidebar to the right. I’ll check out the link, thanks!

  • Peter H says:

    It seems to me that the above may be a good topic for a future book. Or is enough about it in Saved? I look forward to a book on what Ben considers luxury, such as what he would do with a week in which he was not allowed to do a single chore. Yes, we all can guess that such a premise may not be a luxury for him at all, but still, what would the (deceptively strong) man do?!

  • Your wardrobe sounds like ours. Only my husband still working in a professional field still needs to be neatly attired and we push that to the limits too. Bring on thrift shopping and well made clothes, boys in girls clothes and girls in boys clothes. Bring on wearing it until decency dictates otherwise.

  • […] 2. Plan wicked smart. As in, don’t kill and cut pigs in the middle of July when there’s a quadrillion other things going on. I mean, really: What sort of goob would do that? Oh… […]

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