July 31, 2014

Vegetables You Can Grow In The Shade

Looking for something to plant in a less than ideal location? Here are 10 veggies to plant in shadier areas with at least 3 to 6 hours of sun per day.

Some of these can even be planted now to be harvested before the cold weather sets in, depending on your location. I know I am itching to get some seeds in the ground as soon as I can.

Get ready, get set, GROW!

July 30, 2014

Steed And Covered Wagon In One

After a hard, hot day of driving even this cramped and chaotic bed is luxurious. I had
to move 3 guitars each evening before we could make music, snoring.

A good quest is generally aided by a faithful steed. A valiant and reliable workhorse can do wonders when it comes to covering great distances in a short period of time. Our van has been like a faithful steed AND covered wagon all in one.

As we begin to decompress from our continental crossing we are more and more grateful for our van for getting us here safe, sound, and with some gold coins left in our leather pouch.

The green containers contained our kitchen and pantry. They slid out from under the bed for use.

Our bed was made up of 5 large plastic bins. Each one was filled with our stuff, put in place, then all were covered with a plywood base. A 4" custom cut piece of high density foam purchased at an upholstery shop went on top of the platform for a mattress.

Some of the best sleeps we have ever had were in our 'wagon' on this makeshift bed. It had a distinctively gypsy feel to the arrangement. It was simple and it was enough. After a hard day of questing it was divine.

We couldn't have completed our quest without our commode.

Somewhat less conversation-ready is our commode. When it comes to going, the only more basic way to go is to dig a hole in the ground. Since it is often difficult to dig a hole, and since so many washrooms are not accessible (including some with the wheelchair symbol on them), it was crucial for us to have our own facilities.

There is something about using such a simple commode that makes one think of life and waste disposal in a completely different way. Every day we lived in the van we had to find a secure place to dump our waste. It quickly became one of the biggest challenges of our travel routine.

Our modern day self-propelled covered wagon made our quest not only possible, but enjoyable.

Once we got into the groove of living in such a confined space it became more pleasurable than we could imagine. It was spartan, harsh, and void of the everyday comforts most of us take for granted, but we love it.

Or maybe we are whacked out on adrenaline, adventure, freedom and new possibilities. We are also suckers for self-improvement in the vein of 'whatever doesn't kill you…' The trip didn't kill us and we are stronger for it. Or we will be after a week of naps.

Now our faithful steed is having a well-deserved rest after carrying us over 6000 kilometres to our new home. Its next task, after fixing one or two of its well worn shoes, will be when we are ready to forage for furniture.

July 25, 2014

If Life Is Getting Better, Why Do People Feel Worse?

Quotes from:  The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse by Gregg Easterbrook.

The Problems

“A person needs food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, and transportation; once attained, these needs are fulfilled. Wants, by contrast, can never be satisfied. The more you want, the more likely you are to feel disgruntled; the more you acquire, the more likely you are to feel controlled by your own possessions.”

“Americans and Western Europeans live in mainly favorable conditions, yet are experiencing a sense of letdown, as many no longer can dream that the years to come will bring them significantly more than they already possess.”

“For at least a century, Western life has been dominated by a revolution of rising expectations: Each generation expected more than its antecedent. Now most Americans and Europeans already have what they need, in addition to considerable piles of stuff they don’t need.”

“Typically, regardless of how much money an American today earns, he or she estimates that twice as much is required to “live well.””

“As incomes rise, people stop thinking, “Does my house meet my needs?” and instead, “Is my house nicer than the neighbour’s?”

The Solutions

“Positive psychology finds that people who take a grateful attitude toward life, counting their blessings rather than inventorying their complaints, tend to be healthier, happier, and more successful than others.”

“New psychological research suggests it is in your self interest to be forgiving, grateful, and optimistic – that these presumptively altruistic qualities are actually essential to personal well-being.”

“Perhaps, at some structural level, for every old problem solved, a new problem will always be created, meaning we should not expect a better life to improve happiness.” 

July 23, 2014

Eating Ourselves And The Planet To Death

Bon Appetit?

We are eating ourselves and the planet to death. A new relationship with food is required.

Thai meditation teacher Ajaan Fuang is someone I have learned from when it comes to my relationship with food. He was known for his wise words on many subjects, including concepts surrounding food and eating.

After a trip to America, one of his students asked him if he had had a chance to eat pizza while he was there. He mentioned that he had, and that it was very good. This surprised one of his students who had gone along on the trip.

"You ate only two bites," the student said. "We thought you didn't like it."

"Two bites were enough to fill me up," Fuang answered. "Why would you want me to eat more?"

Once a woman who had been studying with him for a short while decided to prepare some food to give to him. Wanting to make sure it would be something he liked, she asked him straight out, "What kind of food do you like?"

I love his answer: "Food that's within reach."

Fuang was very familiar with the problems our stomachs get us into.

"We human beings have long tongues, he said. "You sit around and suddenly your tongue flicks out to sea: You want to eat seafood. Then it flicks around the world: You want to eat foreign cuisine.

He also knew the solution - "You have to train your tongue and shrink it down to size."

Even before eating became an entertainment for the masses he was advising anyone that would sincerely listen, "When you eat, keep your mind on your breath, and contemplate why you're eating. If you're eating simply for the taste of the food, then what you eat can harm you."

Training our tongues and shrinking them down to size will go a long way toward changing our relationship with food and restoring health on Earth. Besides, in these days of rapidly increasing food prices, who can actually afford to eat recreationally?

July 21, 2014

Zone of Survival Monday

Experts agree that the best survival zone is established inside a sturdy cave. Wow, talk about back to the future.

There are an infinite number of things we don't need, but only a limited number of things we do require. Those are the things that guarantee our survival.

Ensuring we have everything we need to survive and thrive has always been difficult. With current challenges, like extreme weather and extreme capitalism, it is getting more difficult.

In the short term it is possible to create a zone of survival with a minimal amount of things.

In able to respond to natural disasters, or any other situation that alters the way things work, every household should have an emergency kit/camping supplies containing the following essentials:
  • Water
  • Food/Cooking Supplies
  • Warmth/Shelter
  • Medications/First Aide
  • Sanitary Supplies
In a longer term situation like persistent economic trouble, the fall of capitalism, or the collapse of civilization, one needs to consider a longer term plan. Hardly alarmist, any one of these scenarios is possible in the coming years considering where we are headed globally.

Creating A Zone of Survival

  • Within 500 + kilometres of the coast and potential flooding from sea rising, tsunamis, and water-borne contaminants.
  • Under 200 feet above sea level, or at high altitudes susceptible to solar radiation exposure.
  • Close to volcanoes and super volcanoes (Yellowstone in northwestern USA).
  • In an earthquake/seismic/avalanche/fault zones (North American west coast, or New Madrid Fault Zone in central, USA).
  • In a river flood plain, or downstream from dams.
  • Within 200km of a coal-fired power plant, nuclear power plant or waste storage facility.
  • In a large city.
  • In a rural area with an ample water supply, 
  • Plenty of fertile land 
  • Abundant forests.
  • Close to or with small groups of like minded people.
  • In an area with unspoilt nature close by.
  • Somewhere with a mild climate.
  • Far from large population centers.
After looking at these lists, Linda and I realized that there are very few places in North America that fit the bill, or at least ones that don't experience 8 or 9 months of winter and cold temperatures that will definitely affect survival rate.

But if you are equipped with the supplies, skills, and knowledge for simple, cooperative and self-sufficient living I think you will have an advantage over those reliant on crumbling corporate for-profit systems, regardless of where you are living.

July 18, 2014

Let It Go

"Soria Moria", by Theodor Kittelsen

“Sooner or later we come to a turning point in our lives that ‘changes everything’ - we let go of fear:  

Fear of authority, fear of oppression, fear of losing everything we own, and fear of our own mortality. 

When we reach that point, we’re prepared to do anything and every thing to stand by what we believe is morally just and right, and only then, can we really be free.” 

- Jennifer B

July 17, 2014

Rural Living

Almost 50% of Nova Scotians live in rural areas compared to 19% for all Canadians.
Photo: Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

People in Canada have been moving to the city for the past 160 years. Today most of us live in cities. But it wasn't always like that. At one time rural living was the way.

In 1851, nearly 9 in 10 Canadians lived in rural areas. The country reached the 5 in 10 mark between 1921 and 1931, when the Canadian economy transitioned from agricultural to industrial.

By 2011 that number was below 1 in 5, or 18.9%. This was one of the lowest rural populations in the G8 group of countries.

But some provinces are more rural than others. The province I just moved from (British Columbia) is roughly 14% rural. The province I moved to (Nova Scotia) weighs in at a healthy 48%.

Rural living is not for most Canadians, but it seems to work for the good folks in the Maritimes. I think this makes for differences in how people interact with each other.

One of our recent stops on the road was in a small town we turned in to so we could get off the highway for a bite to eat and a nap. We parked alongside a beautiful park.

After we were there for a while (I was falling asleep to the sound of laughing children playing and birds singing) a gentleman stopped outside our van. I heard him ask through the open tinted window, "Are you lost?"

Linda explained what we were doing. Reassured, the man told us where to get good food in town, where the local inn was, and then bid us good day.

Shortly after that a young man approached our van from the program he was running at the playground up the block. He told us that our headlights were on, and had been since we pulled in. I thanked him and tried turning the key. Our ever dependable van started, and we carried on our way.

Linda and I were so impressed with how these caring strangers were watching out for us. It was a warm welcome that made us feel good about our choice of our new home province.

Are people friendlier in rural areas? Do they look out for each other more than people in cities, places notorious for turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering of others? Will rural areas be more resilient while responding to changes on the way for our planet?

If so, the rural life seems like a good way to go, now, and as we move forward. And in Canada, the Maritime provinces are where you will find the highest percentage of people choosing what can now be called an alternative lifestyle.

Will more people choose the rural alternative in the future? Would you, or do you already, live in a rural area?

July 14, 2014

Less Not More

You appreciate clothes more when you are standing nude in the cold.

The longer you go without something, or the less you have of anything, the more you appreciate whatever it is.

The best meals happen when you haven't eaten for a good long while and you are truly hungry. It is unbelievable how eating maple baked beans right out of the can while ripping apart a whole wheat bun can feel like a feast fit for any adventure.

There have been various times that Linda and I have not showered for extended periods. Tree planting, backpacking, and living out of a vehicle are all pursuits in which showers are sacrificed in order to attain something else of importance other than being clean and socially acceptable.

If a person showered 3 times a day, how much is each shower enjoyed? Frequency dulls the feedback, which is why less is actually more.

If you want to appreciate life, do less, have less, consume less. 

July 13, 2014


Another beautiful out of the way bivouac in the center of
a small New Brunswick town.

I have always loved the quick, no-frills, independent nature of bivouacking. It makes me feel light and free.

I am familiar with bivouacking from my experiences backpacking in the Rocky Mountains. The term describes a light, temporary (overnight) shelter or resting site, usually on the way to a distant destination.

The requirements were minimal, and sites were chosen for convenience and ease of use. Most often they were beautiful as well. Being unofficial and random, they were always free of charge.

Sometimes while in the wilderness we would string a tarp as a minimal shelter under the trees. At other times we slept open on the ground, laying our sleeping bags right on the trail. The next morning all we had to do was get up, have a bite to eat, shoulder the back pack and keep on hiking.

More recently, since leaving the west coast June 1st Linda and I have spent 20 days and 20 nights traveling. Each of the nights has been bivouacking. Each day we drive until a couple hours before sunset, then start looking for a temporary site to park for the night.

Requirements? It must be not far off our route, and it must be free. And if it is naturally gorgeous near a lake, ocean, or river, so much the better. But it could also be a Walmart parking lot.

Over the past 20 days we have bivouacked at truck stops, museum parking lots, gravel side roads, roadside pullouts, visitor information buildings, rest areas, and yes, even Walmart parking lots (we did NOT go inside the store).

We have had a different temporary stop every night creating a memory-taxing, lengthening list of  locations. But each of those changes is followed by the comfortable familiarity of the highway in the morning.

While it is generally true that some may wish to limit the possibilities for bivouacking, preferring that you pay to sleep, with a little imagination and patience one can always find a quick, no charge temporary site to rest from a day of constant motion.

This is true for the mountain wilderness as well as the wilderness found on the road from coast to coast.

It is good to know that commerce hasn't taken over absolutely 100% of our land and our lives. I love that we can still bivouac and be free.

July 10, 2014


Sir Hunchalot and Lady Gimpavere questing their way to the east.

Quests appear in the folklore of many cultures. These adventures require great exertion on the part of the participants, and the overcoming of many obstacles. They teach us important lessons about letting go, mostly of fear, because if you can overcome fear you can overcome anything.

From Gilgamesh to Lord of The Rings, stories of epic quests have relieved our minds of the trivialities of everyday life and led us into a land of adventures, tests, and magic.

When we started this crazy 6000 kilometre cross-country one way trip we were looking for a quest. We found one, and we even named it - "Sir Hunchalot and Lady Gimpavere Go On A Quest". The name reflects the fact that Linda is in a wheelchair, and I am still disabled by my herniated disk. 

Yes, two crippled questers are the heroes of this story, and it has been a continental crossing of epic proportions befitting a proper adventure. There has been fear (driving is a very dangerous activity), but there has also been rewards.

Over almost two weeks of travel we have spent every night in our van, often in beautiful locations. Because it is set up for total accessibility, the van is more suitable for our needs than most motels, or homes, or businesses. Good thing we are 100% self-sufficient because it is currently saving our butts, not to mention a ton of cash. Every night has been free so far.

The distances we need to traverse are measured in the thousands of kilometres, seemingly insurmountable. Our van has carried us through record flooding on the plains and severe thunderstorms in central Canada. It was almost hit by lightning in the northern Ontario bush. Day after day after day of eight hour, six hundred kilometre passages.

And we drive on toward our goal.

Thankfully our mobile tiny home has been performing flawlessly. It doesn't matter if we are passing over cambered, soft gravel construction zones that want to pull you into the ditch (where you would surely be eaten by monsters, or at least massive mosquitoes), or blasting along Highway 20 east through the city of Montreal, the blue bus has proved itself to be quest-worthy. 

Now we near the end of our voyage, a trip we have done together twice before. The last time we quested this way in 2001, we were younger, and Linda was still walking. This time we are still smiling, but we are road-weary.

These fearless handicapped heroes are ready for a rest. Then we are off to new horizons once again.

"What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? 
And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss."

- Joseph Campbell

July 7, 2014

Off Grid On Lake Superior

This was the view from our van this morning when we woke up - Lake Superior.

Eat, drink, sleep, eliminate. Drive, drive, drive. Repeat for 3000 kilometres over six days. Notice I didn't say shower.

We have been on the road and off the grid for so long that we are going feral.

Traveling has its own wild nature, and most of what we are driving through is impenetrable wilderness punctuated by small communities of wild-loving, simple living, self-sufficient folks. Living close to the edge has a way of heightening the senses, of making everything vibrant and alive and ordering your priorities for you.

Safety is a top priority. Danger is everywhere, and that is no exaggeration. We were almost struck by lightning driving in a western Ontario thunderstorm so torrential that we seriously considered converting our blue land yacht into a nautical version for the rising waters. A safe harbour was required.

Last night we commando camped in a highway pullout so beautiful we had to stop. Right on the shore of Lake Superior we watched the light leave the sky to be replaced by blinky displaying fireflies flitting about our toes on the other side of the window. We woke to waves lapping on the beach next to us.

We are wild, we are free, and we are off grid… at least until our next post.

Only 1700 kilometres to go. Drive, drive, drive.

July 4, 2014

Free Wi-Fi Security

Free Wi-Fi is becoming more popular, but such networks
can have their drawbacks.
The last time Linda and I lived out of a van about the only place that had free Internet access was the local public library. How things have changed since then.

On this trip I have been able to communicate with friends and do posts for my blogs right out of our van, and for free. Access has never been better. By 2009 North America was already home to nearly 83,000 free Wi-Fi access points. Many points are provided by businesses.

I don't want to do any advertising for the corporations that provide free Wi-Fi to get more customers in the door, but will direct you toward popular fast food establishments or coffee shops. Often the connection can be established in the parking lot, so you don't even need to go in for a glass of water.

Municipalities are also getting into providing free Wi-Fi access, and I will share a link to those, starting with Canadian and American communities. Europe has even more than we do.

Municipal wireless networks for North American and the rest of the world can be found by clicking here.

While free Wi-Fi is nice, it does have its drawbacks. Knowing a bit about security can help. The following tips are from a post on public computers and free networks.

  • Don't connect to a public wireless network unless you know who the provider is. Be especially suspicious of "ad hoc" networks (this type may also be labeled as an "Unsecured computer-to-computer network").
  • When in doubt, ask someone what the name of the network is before connecting (especially if you see networks with names like "linksys," "hpsetup," "netgear," "tmobile," "default," etc.).
  • A wireless network is more secure if it uses encryption, preferably WPA or WPA2 encryption. (To use a "secure" network you will have to enter an encryption key the first time you connect to it.)
  • By their very nature, public wireless networks are not secure. There are security risks even if you are using a "security enabled" network that uses encryption.
  • Your information is not protected while using wireless networks. Don't use public wireless for business or financial transactions.
  • If you see a wireless network named "Free Public Wifi" in your list of available networks, you should never connect to it because of potential security risks.

If used cautiously these Wi-Fi access points can be useful and fun. And free.

July 2, 2014

The Karma Brokers Camping In Walmart Parking Lots

"The nomadic life is an opportunity to do what I want to do and not have to worry about all the bills and worry about what's happening next." - Sophia

While Linda and I haven't stayed in any Walmart parking lots so far on our trip, I recently saw an interesting article about camping (or living) at Walmart. The piece was about a photographer that visited two separate lots in Flagstaff, Arizona to document the diversity of people staying there, and the community that they have built on the yellow-lined pavement.

The photo above is of a nomadic group of youthful musicians on a temporary stay in one of the Flagstaff lots. They were traveling from Prescott, AZ, to Montana. Each of them plays at least one instrument, and they fund their travels by €œperforming on street corners.

I can relate to Sophie who had this to say about her experience living on the road with her band mates and Kerouac the dog:

"The nomadic life is an opportunity to do what I want to do and not have to worry about all the bills and worry about what's happening next."

Another older parking lot resident sold his house to live full time in an RV. He considers his mobile lifestyle to be responsible for what he calls "the best years of my life".

The photographer that initiated this interesting project concluded that there was a feeling of community among the lot's residents. Reflecting this community, Liz, a woman living in a van with her boyfriend says,

"You meet a lot of good people who like to help out, so when people do that €œit'€™s like you're a karma broker. You give people an opportunity to give good karma back."

See Meet the American Nomads of Walmart’s Plentiful Parking Lots here.