February 27, 2015

Live Long And Prosper

"Find out what it is that touches you most deeply. Pursue it, learn about it, explore it, expand on it. Live with it and nurture it." 
- Leonard Nimoy, beamed up for the last time today (1932 - 2015)

February 25, 2015

People vs Nature

I am no misanthrope. I love people, and believe that service to others is our highest calling. Particular individuals (some call them "leaders"), however, are really trying my capacity for unconditional love.

I wouldn't even say I am anti-social. But I must say that after reading what our "leaders" are up to, I like nothing more than to be alone in nature.

Lately the human world is confusing me. Nothing seems to be working as it should. Instead of evolving, we seem to be devolving. Soon we will be led right into extinction, and the natural world will be all that is left.

Steven Hawkings is saying that humanity has about 100 years to leave Earth or it will be "too late" for our future survival. Either we will perish from some sort of natural disaster, he says, or by our own hands.

As fun as it would be for a while, I would eventually be depressed to be the last person on earth. It would be miserable to not have someone else around. Nature though, would rejoice our absence from the planet.

I dearly hope our misanthropic leaders don't kill us all. Our sun going supernova would be preferable, but ultimately I would be most pleased if we would just stop hating everything and try love for a change.

Rather than people vs nature, it should be people and nature working in harmony and peace. 

February 23, 2015

One Million

One million is a big number. It is enjoyable to say it just like Dr. Evil - ONE MILLION! You can't repeat it without engaging your enthusiasm.

I was pretty enthusiastic when I had a run-in with one million this weekend. But first I had to put this number into perspective for myself. This is what I found out.

Facts About One Million

  • number of Canadians being surveilled by a private Montreal firm for alleged illegal downloads
  • number of seconds in 12 days
  • number of grains of salt in one cup
It would take about a week to count to one million. It is a significant number, even in a time when there are billionaires everywhere.

More Facts About One Million

  • number of times I have said "no" to buying more crap (probably more actually)
  • number of page views the Not Buying Anything Blog surpassed over the weekend

Yes, one million page views. Dr. Evil would be loving it, even though he can't be described as a simple living individual with that big laser and desire for world domination.

Who said no one was interested in escaping the clutches of the consumer capitalist illusion? Now I have a million reasons to believe that many of us are busting out of the dead end purchasing party.


Thank you to anyone who has ever viewed a page of NBA.

February 20, 2015

Good News

“Good news is rare these days, and every glittering ounce of it should be cherished and hoarded and worshipped and fondled like a priceless diamond.”     - Hunter S. Thompson 

Sometimes it seems like all the news is bad. New wars, old lies, and plenty of evidence that life as we knew it has changed for the worse. I need some good news, and went in search of just that today.

To my delight, I found some. Hidden among the many feet of doom and gloom I found a few inches of goodness that lead me to believe that we are moving forward, albeit as slowly as a pre-climate change glacier.

Here are a few uplifting items that I picked out of a random read of various news sources on the net today:

  • McDonalds in trouble due to "a fundamental shift to healthier eating".
  • Kraft making changes in response to shrinking sales and unhealthy profits - promise to take some of the crap out of their processed foods to please customers looking for "more natural" products.
  • Campbell's soup maker shaking up the program after reduced sales.
  • Chocolate makers introducing "healthier" ingredients to try to sweeten their bottom line - to replace high fructose corn syrup with sugar.
  • Politicians giving themselves a 5% pay cut in Alberta.
  • Greece standing up to the banking gang.
  • The green energy industry employs more people in Canada than the tar sands.
  • We are 26 days away from Spring (Friday, March 20th).

That's 26 days folks. Have a good weekend.

February 18, 2015

Stay Home

This wall of snow separates our house from our compost bin.
Doesn't everyone want to stay home on a day like today? 

The winter storm over the past few days has been so severe that the police are asking everyone to "stay home". I think that is excellent advise during winter storms... or pretty much any other time.

I am always surprised at how people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) on a house and then spend all their time "going out" or on vacation somewhere else. If I paid that much for a house I would never leave it.

Luckily we have a reasonable rent, so I can leave any time I want. But I don't usually want to. Especially on days like today. It is a good time to sit by the fire and read. Or to crank up the oven and bake some bread.

Or have a coffee and talk with a friend. Listen to music. Play music. Play in the yard. Plan a garden. Or a revolution.

Your home should be such a wonderful place that it is better to be there than just about anywhere else. Don't stay home just because the police ask you to - stay home because it is your ultimate sanctuary.

February 16, 2015

5 Rules For Low-Impact Living

Low impact, self-built, no mortgage, natural homes remove support from
the corrupted banking/real estate system.

1. Use only your fair share of the planet's resources.

- even if you can afford to consume more than your fair share
- even if you "work hard" and "deserve" to consume more
- even if you think you are "special", because you aren't

2. Create as little waste as you can - manage it yourself.

- the best way to avoid dealing with waste is to avoid producing it in the first place
- the best way to avoid producing it is to consume less overall
- turn waste products into resources
- compost in the yard and use it to enrich your garden soil

3. Cooperate and share resources, including local green energy production.

- not everyone on the block needs to own a lawn mower, or garden tools, or a drill, or many of the things that we use every day
- local community-owned green energy production will keep the lights on after unsustainable grids go down
- bring food to a neighbour
- start a cooperative, support others in your area

4. Grow as much of your food as possible.

- it is amazing how much food can be grown/raised in a small area
- community gardens are a great way to share land and knowledge
- eat a local diet year round

5. Learn to love the challenge of living ever more simply.

- contrary to what we have been taught, living with less according to the limits of nature is not only right, but can also be a lot of FUN.

February 14, 2015

More Love

To this I would add:

  • more peace
  • more forgiveness
  • more kindness
  • more understanding
  • more compassion
  • more sharing
  • more humility
  • more freedom
  • more cooperation

And considering the state of the world these days, I would add more peace again. Lots more peace. Maybe if we had more love we would have more peace... and all the rest of the things mentioned above.

So, MORE LOVE - it's free so let's spread that stuff around liberally. Give it away, give it away, give it away, now.

February 12, 2015

Snow Roosting And Banking

Evidence of a grouse snow roost site complete with scat.
Photo credit: Mary Holland

Winter's blanket has descended on south western Nova Scotia. Everything has been tucked in until the next thaw, which won't be here for a while. Before the next big melt I am learning from my forest friends and using the snow to keep warm.

Deep snow completely alters the landscape. The insulating value of a deep snow pack affords excellent protection against the elements for many creatures. Above the snow everything is quiet and crispy cold.

Under the snow, conditions are decidedly more toasty with the temperature in a squirrel snow shelter warming to several degrees above zero.

While out snowshoeing in our woods, I see evidence of how creatures use the snow to get away from bitterly cold weather. My favourite is the grouse which flies from a tree and plunges headfirst into the snow to form an instantly insulating snow cave; sometimes they also burrow a way under the snow.

The practice is called "snow roosting" and often nothing can be seen on the surface. Here in their warm hidey holes the birds can shelter in comfort for up to three or four days... or until I come hiking along.

When I am just about on top of them, they burst out of their cozy roost in a shower of insulating ice crystals, and fly away.

The wind banked most of the snow at the back of our house. I did the rest of the perimeter
with a snow shovel and elbow grease.

I thought I would indulge in a little grouse wisdom and put the insulating properties of snow to work for me around my own cozy roost. I did what is know in human circles as "snow banking".

Whether on native shelters thousands of winters ago, or my home today, piling snow up against the foundation/walls of a dwelling provides a similar thermal advantage as the grouse get while buried in the forest drifts.

For every inch of snow you pile against your foundation and wall, you gain an R-value of 1 or more. If you have any air leaks the snow will also help minimize them. That's the kind of stuff that conserves resources and saves money.

Snow banking may not be advised for homes with basements prone to leaking. But banking can be done with other natural materials like straw bales. Linda's mom remembers when she was small and helping bank her family's Nova Scotia home foundation with sand every fall. There is a home down the highway from us that has the foundation banked with spruce boughs.

The snow and other natural materials are free, 100% non-toxic and biodegradable insulation. And they work.

Just ask the grouse when it pops out from under its blanket of snow.

February 9, 2015

Appropriate Euphoria

Experiences in nature are an effective way to induce euphoria.
Definitions of euphoria can take the form of an elusive metaphor, or can be as technical as the production of certain endorphins, but generally the term refers to feeling really great.

There are many natural things that can induce a euphoric response. Researchers have described the euphoric effects of intense love as similar to those of cocaine: exhilaration, excessive energy, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite.

Some conditions can lead to what is called inappropriate euphoria. Inappropriate feeling good. Hmm.

When someone who is expected to feel pain, either mentally or physically, feels none, the experience is considered counter to social norms and is therefore considered inappropriate. Or maybe it is being tough, or resilient, or aware of the fact that things can always be worse.

Can euphoria ever be called inappropriate? Wouldn't it be that if we were truly aware of the potential and possibilities of our existence every waking moment would be euphoric?

Here are a few natural (and mostly free) things that can lead to euphoria of the appropriate variety (whatever that means):
  • positive thinking
  • touch
  • love
  • really spicy food (like fresh salsa with habanero peppers)
  • music
  • play
  • laughter
  • nature
  • exercise
  • art
  • waking up in the morning

I love you. 

Did you feel the rush? Ha, ha, ha.

Did you feel it again?

February 8, 2015

The Price Of Power

"The average American or Canadian household in 2010 used about twenty times more than the typical Nigerian household, and two to three times more than a typical European home."

The cost of electricity is going up and it is a trend that is likely to continue. Such increases will be universal as we try to continue to feed the electricity pig-out that powers our excessive lifestyles.

Before leaving British Columbia we saw our power rate go up, and another 10% increase will take effect April 1 of this year. Even after this year's increase BC will still have some of the least expensive power in Canada (Quebec pays half the rate of BC).

Upon arriving in Nova Scotia we started paying twice the amount for power as we were paying on the coast.

But what if we could get electricity at half the price? While not an option in BC, that situation was on offer here with a change over to Time Of Day (TOD) electric metering. A TOD meter has the ability to measure electricity usage at different rates and times.

Now we continue to do what we can to eliminate power usage, and try to shift as much of our powered activities to low peak times/rates. That means shifting usage to an 11:00 pm to 7:00 am time slot on weekdays (not the most convenient), weekend days and holidays. We have seen our schedule change to take advantage of the half price power.

Our home has a hot water in-floor heating system that uses an efficient tankless electric heater. It is on a timer so we can set it to heat the house's concrete slab at night during off peak rates. Then the system shuts off while the slab radiates heat into the house slowly throughout the day when electric rates are higher.

But in spite of the advances that allow us to pay less for power, conservation is still the best way to go. It doesn't matter how much it costs, we need to reduce our demand for power to a reasonable level that can be supported with sustainable sources such as tidal, wind, micro-hydro, biogas and solar.

"While the US and Canada are up around 4,500 kWh per person (per year), the UK and Germany are below 2,000 kWh.  In Brazil, Mexico and China per person use is just 500 kWh, but growth is very different.  In Brazil residential use per person has been stable over the last 20 years, whereas in Mexico it is up 50% and in China it has increased 600%." - Shrink That Footprint

February 4, 2015

Loving Nature... Even In Winter

First challenge - large drift at the back door.

“I love not man the less, but nature more” - George Gordon Byron

Now that I am away from almost 10 years of mild west coast winters I can honestly say that I missed snow. While we lived on the ocean we had about 3 snow events that didn't last much longer than 24 hours before mild temperatures vanished it all away.

During our first winter it snowed. I asked our landlord if I could borrow a snow shovel. He didn't have one. He offered me an oar. I laughed and a few hours later the snow had melted.

Winter in Nova Scotia has been quite different even though we are still close to the ocean. Instead of sea level, now we are on a ridge at the highest point in the county at about 100 meters. It snows a lot up here. A lot. And I am loving it.

I can snowshoe right from my back door into the wild forest. It is great not to have to drive to find a place as nice as I have found right in my own backyard.

First I cross a windswept open field - windchill is at its highest here, about minus 21 C today.

As soon as I enter the forest there is no wind. Just heaps of snow.

Planning a route through my winter playground.

Pristine, puffy pillows of precipitation piling up perfectly.

Just me and the snowshoe hare, deer, chickadee, downy woodpecker, and grouse resting in deep holes in the snow.

After an hour and a half of heavy hiking it is time to follow the trail and the sun back across the field.

Back home again - watch out for that drift. More snow in the forecast. Yah!

February 2, 2015

Super Gardens Not Supermarkets

We need more super gardens and less supermarkets. I want my food to come from my yard, not 10,000 kilometres away. I want food in local fields, forests and yards.

Let's barter my potatoes, squash, kale, garlic and grains for your apples, corn, beans and tomatoes.

I can't think of anything more "productive" than nature and growing your own food.

Happiness is a full root cellar and pantry. Security is a group of neighbours helping each other out and enjoying the local bounty of nature together.

What if the supermarket threw a big sale event and no one came?

“Food security is not in the supermarket.”  
“How many of us lobby for green energy or protected lands, but don't engage with the local bounty to lay by for tomorrow's unseasonal reality? That we tend to not even think about this as a foundation for solutions in our food systems shows how quickly we want other people to solve these issues.”  
From: Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World, by Joel Salatin,