July 31, 2016

Every Day Seems Like A Holiday

This is my 1214th post on Not Buying Anything. Since Linda and I started this blog in 2008, we have been honing our simple living skills and sharing our insights with you, our readers, friends and mentors. There has been the odd rant, too. But the times are ripe for rantings, are they not?

The way things have been going since we started blogging, it has often felt like Survivor, with most of the institutions and foundations of our consumer-based, rich-get-richer system being voted off the planet one after another. Soon the simple living contestant will be the only one standing.

The rate of change has continued to increase since we started watching in earnest, and it is often difficult to get your bearings to see where this is all going. It is an important time to have good people around. Like all you NBA people.

The response to our blog has exceeded all our expectations, and it has been a great comfort to discover so many wonderful people that grace us with their presence and the sharing of ideas, knowledge, good humour, and general camaraderie on our blog for all to enjoy. For that we thank you from the bottom of our minimalist hearts.

Here are some of our stats since the beginning in 2008:

  • almost 1.5 million page views
  • hosted 4390 comments
  • published 1214 posts
  • our most viewed post is "Average House Size By Country"... hmmm
  • the country with the most visits is the US, rounding out the top three are the UK and Canada
  • we have had simple living visitors from almost every country in the world, because the yearning for simplicity is universal
  • over the past couple of weeks Russian visitors have been more frequent than any time before, and we welcome them to our growing community 

Plus my keyboarding skills are at an all time high.

As a matter of fact, keeping this blog has been so hopeful, educational, and engaging for us, that we have never taken any kind of break. And boy, are my fingers tired, not to mention my brain.

Now that the heat and humidity have settled in, we thought that now would be a good time to dial things back for a while to focus on our garden, sit quietly with a cold lemonade in hand, and regenerate.

Therefore, while we usually publish every Mon, Wed, and Fri, for the next while we are going off schedule. I may post material from the archives, or post new material irregularly, or maybe go off line entirely for a cyber-holiday... after getting caught up with reader comments (there is always something to be done).

We will see how long we can keep ourselves from ranting on the latest development, or sharing our latest good news, or hearing about yours.

Thank you so much for everything you have done to make the Not Buying Anything blog one of our favourite places on the internet.

Happy summer. Or winter. Regardless of season, happy simple living. May every day seem like a holiday.

July 27, 2016

Riot of Food vs Food Riot

Our garden is not a riot of food yet. More like a small, but promising disturbance. The radishes are really shaking things up.

I have never experienced a food riot, although in the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008 my food store looked like there had been a riot prior to my arrival. For the first time since I can remember, shelves were empty of staples. What was there was disheveled and picked over.

It was scary not knowing if things would get worse. Was this it? Was this the moment everything changed? Would the food riots I was reading about in the news come to my own city? Or was it different here?

It kind of was, and wasn't. The store soon returned to normal, although food prices have been steadily increasing since then. Now there may be lots of cauliflower on the shelves, but you may not feel like paying the price the grocer wants for it.

Either way, I would rather experience a riot of food than a food riot. And the way to ensure that is to grow a garden. That is what we are doing this year.

Although our garden got off to a slow start, we are off and running now. When our first planting of beans and peas did not go well, we planted again. The second planting was more successful - our perseverance paid off.

What a joy it is to be tending a garden again. It is a total immersion in nature, in life, in growth.  And most importantly, it is to experience hope for the future. Hope that you can take to the food bank and share with those around you.

July 25, 2016

S'less Please

"S'less please."

The sickly sweet, over-the-top campfire confection known as a S'more is a perfect symbol for overconsumption. Sweet, glorious consumption. Extreme treats for extreme living.

Take a simple base (graham cracker), add some more (chocolate bar), then even more (roasted marshmallow), mash it all together in one dripping destructive mass and consume. Why stop? It feels good. Have some more. Go ahead, and forget about the consequences. YOLO!

But does it really feel good? These things make my teeth hurt just thinking about them. And it isn't just painful dental bills to be concerned about.

"Eating too much sugar raises your risk for gaining weight and the health problems that are associated with being overweight. You are more likely to suffer diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and many other health conditions when you indulge your sweet tooth too often."  - from Livestrong.com

I propose an alternative I call a S'less. Like with a S'more, you start with a graham cracker.

The next simple step is: eat it.

Nothing further needs to be done, because a graham cracker is enough. More than enough, actually, as the cracker alone contains one gram of sugar. So when you enjoy a S'less, you just have one.

If you are used to the S'more lifestyle, that probably sounds boring, or plain. But I have found that the healthier I eat, the less I crave for things, including sugar. In the same way, the more simply I live, the less I crave consumption, the sugar of modern lifestyles.

S'mores are said to have been named after everyone asked for "some more" after eating one. Because we are trained to want more. More S'mores, more everything. "More", as the lie goes, "is always better."

This is a good summer to make a switch from craving S'more to being satisfied with S'less. Around the campfire, and everywhere else. It is the healthier alternative.

July 22, 2016

It's Simple: Do This Or DIe

If this wasn't your view when you woke up this morning, you are doing alright.

Being in the hospital forces one to think about what is really important in life. It is a harsh lesson in the basics, in simplicity. Life stripped to the essentials.

It all really comes down to one question.

When the doctor or nurses come into your room they don't ask you about all the stuff you have at home. They don't ask what kind of car you drive, or how many square feet your home is. They don't ask what you do for a living, or how much money you have.

No, this is what they ask - "Have you had a bowel movement today?"

That is something that really matters. As my friend said while training as a nurse - "If you don't poo and pee, you die." I have thought a lot about that simple statement since the last time I was in the hospital shortly after moving to Nova Scotia, two years ago.

I had injured my back doing a transfer with Linda. We needed two ambulances to get us to the hospital, since there was no one to care for her in my absence. I was in hospital for one week, Linda for two (so I could have one week of respite and heal properly).

During that time we were both asked "The Question" on a regular basis. Why? Because it is one of the most simple and important things any of us do, whether during a crisis in the hospital or in regular life back home.

So Dr. NBA asks you, "Have you had a movement today? Urinated, too?" If so, you are doing alright.  Have a great hind end, and weekend. Life is good.

July 20, 2016

It's All About The Freedom

“Living simply, voluntary simplicity, back to basics - whatever you want to call it - is all about freedom. It is about wanting less and being happy with that. It is about finding true priorities and making our lives less complex.”

- Yvonne Quarles

July 18, 2016

Sit Spot Schedule

I recently discovered this special spot near my new home in southwest Nova Scotia, Canada.

For many years my main priority, my passion, has been to experience as much nature as possible. Our connection to nature is not something that is nice to have, or extra. Our survival depends on recognizing our place in the web of life. A sit spot helps to do just that.

It doesn't matter what you call it, a sit spot, special place, secret spot, or medicine site, the benefits are the same. Simply put, a sit spot is a place to go to connect to nature in a deep and disciplined way. Everyone should have one or more special spots to visit.

Especially kids. The sooner you start, the better.

This spot is a good place to witness the throb of life in the Acadian Forest.

There are a few things to consider when deciding on, and enjoying your particular spot, or spots. The most important is to make your chosen area easily accessible.

  1. Choose a spot outside, preferably at ground level and with a few of the surrounding area. If it takes longer than a couple of minutes to get there, it is too far away.
  2. Any spot will do - chair outside your door, a bench in the yard, or sitting cross legged in the grass. The easier it is to access, the fewer excuses you will have for not visiting it regularly.
  3. Once in your spot, rest comfortably. Don't move, breath deeply.
  4. Sit for a while. It can take several minutes for your body and mind to relax into it, so try from 10 to 30 minutes, or more. 
  5. Be still, quiet, and aware of your surroundings. 
  6. Observe. What do you see? Hear? Feel? What does it smell like?
  7. Visit your sit spot every day, or as regular as possible. An every day sit schedule is something to work toward.
  8. After a while, you might consider using a journal to record your discoveries, experiences, and ah - ha moments while in your special spot.
  9. Ask questions. What does it all mean? What is it trying to teach you?
  10. Help someone else establish their own sit spot schedule. It would be a most valuable gift.

I have always had special natural areas that I like to revisit often. They have been both around home, and some a bit farther away. When I miss out on sit spot visits I feel deprived. I can feel it in my mood and energy levels.

Ultimately, nature deficit disorder can lead to catastrophic results, including thinking that the economy is more important than the environment.

No terrorism here. No coups, no hate or ugliness. Those are the poisons - this is the antidote.

All the answers we need to ensure our survival are already known, and they all come from nature. A regular sit spot schedule teaches the sitter a lot about themselves, and nature, of which we are an inextricable participant.

Spending time in nature teaches us all the lessons we need to know. It engages our empathy for all life, and reveals our place, and our purpose. It helps us to do as little harm as possible as we journey through this life. It can change the world.

Try 30 days of a few minutes in your special spot and see what happens. Its medicine can lead to a life time connection with your area, and everything in it, in a deep and intimate way.

It can change your life. It did mine.

July 15, 2016

20% Of Americans Can't Afford To Shop

Something is wrong with the continuation of the consumer society when 20% of Americans can't afford to shop. A growing group can't even afford the basics.

Incomes have been stagnant for decades, while the price of things continues the relentless march upwards. While the definition of the middle class is a slippery concept, what it describes for the most part is a group of people that can afford to shop for non-necessary stuff. That group is shrinking, and maybe that is not so bad, considering the harmful effects of mindless consumption.

What is bad is that it is also increasingly difficult for many of us to even afford the basics. It used to be, not so long ago, that a single wage family could afford a middle class lifestyle. Not so any more. Now even two wage earners in a family do not guarantee the ability to enjoy that illusive comfy lifestyle.

Here are a few things that the middle class can no longer afford, besides large screen TVs, electronics, restaurant meals, going to the movies or clothes.

  • vacations
  • new vehicles
  • to pay off debt
  • emergency savings
  • retirement
  • medical care
  • dental work

I wonder if they keep statistics on how many Americans are choosing not to shop. People who could shop if they wanted to, but see the futility of continually chasing after the next high while purchasing things they don't need, or even really want. 

The leaches that get rich from selling stuff better find a different way to fleece the world rather than flogging the dying horse of consumerism, because this thing is on its way out. 

What we really can't afford is a system where a small group gets enormously wealthy by exploiting the environment and the majority of humanity.

Now I am off to the dentist to hear about a whole bunch of things that I can't afford.

July 13, 2016

First Harvest

Radish greens come early, and make a tasty fresh salad. These were from thinning a row.

While our new raised bed got off to a slow start, we enjoyed our first harvest today - radish greens. Let the 5 Meter Diet begin in our Zone 7, southern Nova Scotia garden.

We have a row of radishes that is coming along nicely, and needed to be thinned. I experimented with a few and transplanted them to see if they would survive. Other thinnings I cut off at ground level and collected the greens for a salad.

The occasional small, crispy hot radish was eaten as well for the 'just picked freshness' experience. It is hard to beat the first radish of the year for the sheer impact it has on your very being. What a connection to your little spot on the earth. What a vegetable.

Radish is one of the earliest foods to mature in a veggie garden. All parts of this amazing food are edible. Previously, when we have grown radish, I had only eaten the most nutritious part, the root. Now I know that the greens make a nice crispy, slightly hot salad all on their own, and should never be discarded.

The seeds and flowers are also edible, and reports are that they are slightly hot tasting like the root. We may leave one or two plants to mature so we can see and eat the flowers and seeds. It is always one big green experiment.

Now we wait on the continued growth of the carrots, kale (red russian and curly leaf), chard, peas, beans, sunflowers, marigolds, beets, basil, summersavory, and cilantro. We probably have room for some discounted greenhouse plants, like squash. Or cucumber.

What a joy to nurture our own food out in the fresh air and sunshine. There are many health benefits to a garden before you even get to the eating stage. But the best part is the eating.

Goodbye to sprayed, wilted 6000 km veggies that have passed their best before date before they even reach the store, and hello to fresh produce I can watch growing from my kitchen window, and can harvest with my own two hands.

Our first harvest in a long while was very exciting, tasty, economical and nutritious. I hope your garden is thriving. Or if you don't have one, that you may get one soon.

Why wait? Food isn't getting any cheaper.

July 11, 2016

Competition and Cheating Are The Problem, Not The Solution

Only through cooperation will we build a more beautiful world.

Show me a competition and I'll show you cheating. At all levels.

Now consider that our lives have been set up to be one great competition. Adults cheat. Kids see adults cheating. Kids cheat. Everyone is in a deadly serious situation that is sold as "survival of the fittest".

But the fittest for what? Why, for cheating, of course.

From the moment we are born we are unwitting players in The Game Of Life. I believe a more accurate name would be The Game Of Death, because if you are not good at playing this game, death is often the result. Those that survive, the 'winners' in other words, need to be ruthless, mean and selfish in order to work the system to their benefit.

George Monbiot describes this inhuman state of affairs that goes against everything I know about human nature, and is backed up by personal experience.

"Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency.  
Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty.  
Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers.  
Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve."

Because our dominant world view is one of competition and winning at all costs, it is also one that involves cheating. A lot of cheating. It isn't even about the game any more. Now the whole game is to see who can cheat the most effectively. Organizations founded to prevent cheating are ineffective in stopping it, and are themselves engaged in cheating.

When our leaders and the police routinely cheat, where is one to turn? If we play by the rules that they expect the little people to play by, how can we build a better system based on cooperation and compassion? Or do we have to cheat along with the rest of them?

No.  If competition and cheating are the problem, then honest, sincere cooperation is the answer. There is no reason to cheat when everyone is a winner. Let's start there.

The way past our currently collapsing competitive world view is to be a witness to the self-imposed implosion of neoliberalism, and be prepared to help build "the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible" once the dust settles (as Charles Eisenstien writes about in his highly recommended book of that title).

In preparation, we can turn our collective powers toward imagining what this more beautiful world might look like. We can begin manifesting right now, right where we are at. No waiting necessary.

We can also start living our imagined better world right now. Why wait for collapse, and everyone else to catch up? It is joyful and nice to model cooperation in every day situations when others expect a no-holds-barred competition all the time.

Let's take John Lennon's invitation and Imagine (the song was the most popular of his post-Beatles musical career, and for a good reason). Go ahead - take a moment. What does your more beautiful world look like?

July 8, 2016

Lower, Lower, Lower

Here is how to get by in our crowded, chaotic world - lower your expectations. It has been shown to be the key to happiness.

Next step? Lower your expectations some more. OK. Now - lower, lower, lower.

Case in point. I am running out of dish rags, so I went to my stash of old rags in the rag bag. These are all bits and pieces I decided long ago were no longer suitable for service as originally intended.

As I looked through the bag I found a few old dish rags. Today, when I am in need of a few, they looked perfectly fine. They didn't even have holes in them! I guess I have lowered my expectations since they made their way to the rag bag, because they look just fine now.

I took the old dish rags out and have started using them at my kitchen sink, amazed that even after years and years of living simply I am still finding ways to simplify even more. And I am buying even less. No amount of shopping could be as satisfying as that.

I have, and continue, to lower my expectations. But only materially.

While my life is materially sparse, it has plenty of opportunity to be mentally, socially, and spiritually rich. And that is what really counts. We should expect more from life than perpetually spending money buying stuff and always expecting more.

Lower your expectations. Be happy.

July 6, 2016

Neither A Hoarder Nor Collector Be

After recently writing the shortest post I have ever written (a single word), I have been thinking about using words to share my thoughts. It is similar to the thinking I do about the place of stuff in the story that is life.

I don't want to be a word hoarder, or collector. To adapt a well known saying, "I would have written a short post, but I didn't have time. So I wrote a long one." But longer, or more, is usually not meaning better.

Woody Allen's best advice for how to improve a piece of writing is "make it shorter". Usually using fewer words is not only more efficient, but more effective as well. Often writers find it difficult to make the cuts required for brevity. It's hard to "kill your babies" so to speak.

Living is the same. Consuming and owning more than you need, whether by hoarding or collecting, takes one away from the optimal efficient and effective life. Like writing with many unnecessary, not required, superfluous, overabundant, and extra words, living with extra stuff is a dreaded anchor that threatens to pull everything down.

The idea is to live, or write, purposefully, judiciously and always with a nod to channeling your creativity in the most economical way possible.

In the end, the question to ask about words on the page, or stuff in the closet, would be:

"Is it doing any work?"

If not, cut it out. Make it gone. Get rid of it. Punt it. Erase.

July 4, 2016


I have been turtling again. Looking for turtles, for Mother Earth's symbol carrier. Looking for some protection from the disorder the world is currently experiencing. And to my fortune, another beautiful turtle came to me - an eastern painted turtle this time.

I can take a hint. You have to know when to pull back from things, pull in and protect yourself. Turtle moves slowly, and is the most philosophical resident of the wetlands. Turtle has a lot of time to think and dream while overwintering in the bottom mud of watery places.

Turtle teaches us that we need protection, balance, and to ground ourselves in preparation for taking action. We need to be prepared - there is a lot to be done, as pointed out by quantum physicist David Bohm back in 1980.

"The notion that all these fragments is separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. 
Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today. 
Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who live in it. 
Individually there has developed a widespread feeling of helplessness and despair, in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming mass of disparate social forces, going beyond the control and even the comprehension of the human beings who are caught up in it." 
- Wholeness and the Implicate Order

The animal medicine cards done by Jamie Sams and David Carson offer an excellent way to learn the natural lessons all creatures have to teach us.

"In Native American mythology, Turtle represented the Earth, the mother from whose substance the bodies of all creatures living on Earth were formed, and the nurturing Force that provides an opportunity for the human spirit to evolve. 
As a power animal, Turtle teaches the need for protection. Although you should find expression for the creative sources within, and allow your thoughts to reach up to "heavenly" things, it is essential to stay well grounded and to be connected to the power of the Earth. In other words, you must keep your feet on the ground of practicality. 
Turtle also stresses the need to keep the physical body in balance, and to remember that this is the vehicle through which we experience life on Earth. 
Turtle teaches the wisdom of aligning yourself with the cyclic flow of life, and demonstrates that the fastest way is not necessarily the best, for it takes time for ideas to develop properly. 
Turtle indicates Earth harmony, and draws you to all that is whole and good and abundant. Make haste slowly. 
Connect to Earth Mother. Ask for her blessings. Fertility and manifestation will follow." 
Medicine Cards (Santa Fe: Bear and Company, 1988).

There is a time to take action, and there is a time to engage in some turtling, or pulling into your shell and protecting yourself from whatever threatens.

Go slow, lay low.

July 1, 2016

No Hurry To Buy Anything

Zig Ziglar worked in sales and was also a motivational speaker. 

Zig Ziglar worked in sales for a variety of companies. A life time of selling taught him that consumers in no hurry to buy anything were a problem for the salesperson.

'Buy now, or never. Last day of sale. Supplies almost out. Get what you want now. Hurry. Don't delay, don't think about it, topple in to the murky river of consumerism with both feet encased in diamond encrusted gilded concrete shoes. Now.'

With FOMO so prevalent these days, it is easy to fall for advertising that manufactures a false sense of having to make purchases with the most haste and enthusiasm you can muster. "Vanquish that fear of missing out", they whisper, "and buy now".

Gotcha! Unless you are not in a hurry and can't be compelled to buy into the false panic and rush.

If someone tells you that you need to buy something now or miss out, stash your wallet and run. Don't look back. Make a purchase in haste, and often you will end up wasting money, or owning things you don't need or want.

In my experience, if you really need something, you will usually get it. I like to allow the thing or situation to find me, rather than the other way around. Like waiting for a round pizza pan to arrive, then finding a perfect pan in our building's metal recycling. 100% off.

The universe has a way of providing things, often in unexpected ways, if only you are patient. As John Steinbeck observed, "If it is right, it happens. The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away."