“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time:
How much is enough?”
Waste not want not my old Mum used to say. That’s probably why I have a Bricoleur’s use it or lose it approach to life. I also look for ways to avoid or automate chores to free up time for the things in life I really enjoy. We eat plants mostly and so we have a large vegetable garden with a number of fruit trees. Every night we used to spend about 30 to 60 minutes watering the garden. That’s 820 thousand hours over an average lifetime. Now we just wash the dishes or take a shower instead.
Thanks to an ingenious system of hoses the water we use in the shower, the basin or the kitchen sink is sprinkled over the garden and its easy to unhook if we need to. Say we were showering to remove something we’d rather didn’t go into our food we’d disable the grey water system.
This is good for the environment, good for the garden and good for us, but hoses can be expensive to buy. There is no way that I have found to get hoses for free unless you are going freeloader hard core in which case you can get them a night from any public garden. If stealing is not your thing then console yourself. Buying hoses is justified for the life saving alone.
One of the criticisms, which I prefer to see as improvement opportunities, is that we don’t really list the practical projects that we plan or complete. It is a fair point. Largely this is because there are a zillion how to youtube videos and websites out there, but too few people seem to be interested in putting this wonderful information into action. Our response was to build this site around what and why of simple living rather than the how. To my way of thinking once you have the idea you can always find out how to put it into practice.
Still here are a few of the practical projects that I have on the go at the moment.
- Building a small park bench seat with and for my small son.
- Starting up a community food swap co-operative where all of our neighbours come together to swap and trade produce, jams sauces and so on. My sister set one up and I really like how it has bought her area together.
- Building a new transport mountain bike. I will buy the frame new. A good frame can last 25 years. All the rest of the components I intend to acquire through trades, second hand or by volunteering at a local bike shop and a local green bikes project (building second hand free/very cheap bikes for transport disadvantaged people).
- Starting up our new business. More details on this later.
- Building two new garden planter boxes and renewing one retaining wall that holds up half of our land (including the main walk in accessway).
- Repainting one weather affected area of our cabin. It needs a good scrape and sand first. Hopefully I’ll have the help of my father for the painting bit. Over the years we’ve had some really great talks and good bonding while doing stuff like this together.
- Building a new patio gate with roller wheels to lock a toddler in patio prison and avoid having to recover him from a forest hiding place.
- Reinvigorating our community beer project. Last year we made a few batches of neighbourhood ale. I firmly believe good ale is compost for the soul and ours was no exception. Everyone involved loved it.The making, the drinking and the comradery, but then we all got busy. I also did a wee social experiment to see if someone else would kickstart it again, but they haven’t so I will.
That is it for Jan/Feb for me. I know Ms Simple has quite a few things on the go including raising seedlings for sale, endless sowing projects (I can’t keep track – seriously), orchard improvements and harvesting our current crops of berries and stone fruit for eating and for jam’s, chutney’s and sauces. In between she’s planning to stain the portico floor and make new skirting boards and a door jam. All while keeping an eye on two juveniles (me and the boy).
There is no end to what you can achieve if you turn off the electronic reproduction of life and go outside instead.
“Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a [wo]man, you take it”
Since 2001 western countries have been fighting a war against terrorism (whatever that is). Eventually a war between two nations will end, but what a marvelous bit of serendipity for the industrial-military-complex to have an un-winnable war against an english noun. It’s literally a blank cheque for those without ethics and a total disregard for the sanctity of human life. Recent events in Paris give yet another justification for interventionist military activity. Whatever really happened at Charlie Hebdo there is enough out there to question the official narrative. What concerns me most though is that the immediate reaction of Governments has been to stamp down on civil liberties. Spain for example has pushed through a new law banning public protest with a whopping 600,000 euro fine if you decided to go out with a group of mates and protest the fact that they passed such a contrived piece of legislation. Its also now illegal to film the police in public places. So if you see a Rodney King in Seville best not pick up your camcorder expecting a just result.
Since Spain is part of the EU other European nations should expect similar erosion of their freedoms as soon as the their Spanish mates prove they can land it without massive public discord. Another worrying area is our internet freedoms. At the moment the internet lets you and I post whatever thoughts, photos, video or audio that we wish to share. This is problematic for controlling the worlds official narratives and most problematic for the ruling class is that it doesn’t allow us to be programmed in the way that they could in the TV generation. It now seems inevitable that the brakes will be put on the internet. In 15 years you will be reminiscing about the world wide web as you search unsuccessfully on CNNet for a recipe written by Reuters. Following the Hebdo incident all signs suggest that the internet is now the next massive target for world leaders to stitch up. Since almost the birth of the internet our online activities have been spied on remotely, but now these unscrupulous types seem hell bent on placing stringent controls on our means to communicate electronically. Ironically it’s the country that claims to the world’s champion of free speech – USA that is leading the charge on shutting down the honest, open and free exchange that the internet allows us. We can’t let these guys win. We need to protect our rights. We need to stop fighting for freedom and become peaceful, helpful and tolerant people, but above all we need to aggressively protect a free internet at all costs.
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset”
Maybe you rolled out of bed this morning and wished your life could be simpler.
Maybe you’re sick of being stuck in traffic in a cluttered messy car telling yourself there has got to be a better way to live your life.
Maybe you value freedom. You’ve experienced work life long enough to seek means beyond corporate servitude.
Maybe you’re just sick, tired, and in debt to your eyeballs.
Maybe you’re getting over minimalism. Constantly spending your nights washing your only white t-shirt.
Maybe you can’t find your kitchen sink under all of the oddities and kitchen curiosities you’ve collected in your travels.
Or, maybe you have no money in the bank, a job you hate and an unfulfilling life. Doing stupid stuff for other people for money to buy stuff from another group of people just as caught in the trap as you are.
Maybe you’re all of these things and maybe now you want out.
Start with one room in your house and simplify. Week after week pick a simplify project and apply yourself. Simplify how and where you make money. Simplify who you pay and what you pay them for. Learn new skills. Read about simple living on the internet. Start to build up your neighbourhood. Live more locally. Share. Save money doing it. You are not a drone meant to mine away in a cubicle. Your life is too precious for that. Outsmart them by living simply. Become free.
“Fractal geometry’s repeating patterns provide a scientific framework for the principle that mystics call “as above, so below”. We are clearly part of the Universe, not an add-on afterthought whose job it is to ‘conquer’ Nature”.
Have you ever noticed how your child acts chaotically when you take them shopping. You may find yourself constantly disciplining their behavior because normal childhood tendencies are not aligned to expected shopping behavior. The lights, sparkles, music and everything about the environment is set up to excite and of course your little bundle of consciousness reacts to excitement with hyperactive, somewhat aggressive style of play where they run away and generally act like someone else’s kid (or at least you wish they were).
Now take that same kid or a group of kids to the beach and what happens. You discipline less. You play more. Almost any behaviors are acceptable. Unlike the mall or an artificial playground there are enough of everything that there are no ‘sharing’ fights. About the only tanty you see is when you are packing up to bicycle home (or maybe you drove which is a far less empowering travel choice for a child).
What I getting at here is that if you want calm, caring, considerate children give them lots of natural play environments. Shield them from artificial, [wo]man made, over stimulating environments as much as you can. Your child is not a mini consumer in training pants so don’t pattern their behavior to become one. Your child is a natural animal. A biophillac being that needs contentedness to healthy natural environments to thrive. Give the mall a miss. Hit the river bank, a park, a forest, the beach, a mountain or row out to an island. Anywhere natural will do.
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else”
We all get bombarded with so much advertising that it’s pretty easy to fall victim to the impulse buy. A few of those a day add up. Go out shopping for produce come home with a bigger TV and you’ve quickly lost the investment opportunity that earned cash brings.
One of the ways to prevent random overspending is to implement a strict dollar per hour policy. Say I go ‘hey I need a can opener!’ the impulsive me rushes out, but he doesn’t buy the $4 option. He buys the $25 electronic option with the built in juicer. This is why my default setting is to body check this behaviour by saying ‘$4 = a 4 hour wait and then if I still want that can opener I go get it’.
The only time I deviate from this personal policy are for real emergencies. In my experience it is best to pay for that medicine right when you need it. I also get stuff when on a couple of consecutive days (usually 3-5) I have wanted to get the thing.
Tricks like this keep $ in your wallet and $ in your wallet eventually get into your call account where they are put to work making you some more lazy income. I particularly like lazy income because I feel less guilty about being idle myself!
“What goes up must come down”
Life has its ups and downs. You get a pay rise, your kid gets picked for a rep team and your mum gets cancer. Without the troughs you can never appreciate the rarefied air of the peaks. I used to ride the waves of emotion. I was an unwitting junkie. High on life the next minute crashing down. Now I ride midships. I sense the waves but I’m not caught in them as I was when I rode at the bow.
At times you have control, or think you have control, but mostly we are pushed and pulled by forces beyond our meager comprehension. Like with mum. She thinks eating only vegetables is more extreme than being cut open by a surgeon’s knife all for a 1 in 3 survival chance. Because i love her I want to ride in on a white horse snatch control and stuff her full of leafy greens, garlic and berries that have been shown to retard cancer cell growth by 70%, but it’s not my body and it’s not my life. She’s on her journey and it’s hers alone. While we might like to interject in situations and wrestle our will across things its altogether fruitless. Better is to support, love, care and help. Inform gently and infrequently. People don’t like being told what to do and we can all understand why that is true.
If you’ve ever thought about death and dieing (and everybody should because fear of death is the main thing that stops us from really living) you may have arrived at a conclusion that our western death narrative serves us poorly. Death is transition not annihilation like we are told. Death is simply the outgrowth of a worn out spacesuit. We shed our meatsuit like the caterpillar and metamorphosize back into our natural state no longer able to play a role in this dream of life.
While we dream the here and now we should enjoy it. The good, the bad, the lateness, the disappointment, the frustration, the anger, the achievement and the euphoria. It’s all wondrous and it’s all here on display for us. At this time of the year there is pressure, stress, tragedy and drama. Move to the middle of the boat where the ride is the calmest. Step back behind your eyes and relax. Not being able to get your kid the last Lego Minecraft set is not all that big a deal. Love the ones you love, don’t bicker and fight. Dance where others fret and sweat. The dream can be a beautiful pageant if you let it be so.
Have a very Merry Christmas. Cherish those you love. Give the gift of your attention, compassion and good humour.