August 30, 2018

Nature Is Perfection

Nature is perfection. 

Everything unfolds as it should. 

Nothing is wasted. 

Flowers blossom. Bees come and go. 

The sun rises. The sun sets. 

The Earth breathes.

It all happens here and now. 

August 28, 2018

Garlic Harvest

Freshly harvested naturally grown purple striped garlic laying in our garden.

This weekend we celebrated our garlic harvest after gently lifting 29 purplish heads out of their soily home where they have been growing since last December 1st. 

At that time I planted 30 purple stripe bulbs (one failed to launch) on a beautiful fall day. Harvesting was like unwrapping a present. 

Now the presents are hanging in our garage for a 2 or 3 week curing. Then we will brush off soil and trim the stem and roots in preparation for storage

We still have a couple of heads of last year's crop, so for the first time we are self-sufficient in the garlic department. Meeting even a small goal like this feels great. I don't like being dependent on any system.

Garlic curing in the garage.

Something that helped stretch our supply out was trimming the scapes from our crop a few weeks ago. It is the first time we have trimmed them off, thinking we might get larger heads. This year's harvest was better than last year.

Trimming allowed us to try eating scapes for the first time, and we found that they are delicious. Next year we will trim them a bit earlier because older scapes become too fibrous to eat.

Growing garlic is the way to go. Your own garlic tastes better than imported, and it is nice to reduce your garlic footprint by 10,000 kilometres. And if the garlic boats ever stop coming, your stash will go on uninterrupted.

I love my garlic, and I love my garden. Better food - smaller footprint. Don't have to drive to the grocery store. 

Best of all, being in the garden is therapeutic for me, because when I am in the garden, all I think about is the garden. The peace of mind I cultivate might be the best harvest of all.

August 24, 2018

Garden Mystery

It's a jungle in there. A sweet smelling, edible jungle.

Our garden has grown well this year, due to a Spring application of a couple tractor loads of manure. I imagine the heat this summer didn't hurt, either. 

This is our third season since we started our new raised bed from scratch, and the soil is building up nicely. I take the loads of worms as a good sign that things are happening, and this space is being transformed into an organic food factory.

So what is the mystery?

One of our neighbours brought over a potted vegetable they didn't want any more. Fortunately, we are plant rescuers, and no plant is turned away. We welcomed the new addition to our garden. 

Thing is, we have no idea what it is. The neighbour called it "lettuce", but we have never seen lettuce like it.

Are there any gardeners out there that can help us identify our new mystery vegetable?

Here it is. 

Do you know what this plant is?

Whoever identifies this veggie successfully, will be invited over to our house to share a salad with us, as part of a harvest feast.

I went for a bike ride in the forest this evening. I felt a change in the air. We have also been noticing that the hummingbirds are thinning out, and the fierce competitions at the feeder have faded.

Fall is approaching. 

Happy harvest.

August 21, 2018

Ruins: Impermanence In Action

"A ruin is not just something that happened long ago to someone else; its history is that of us all, the transience of power, of ideas, of all human endeavours."     
- George Schaller

Sometimes I wonder how best to take down the system that is rapidly destroying the planet. Then I pause to consider that it seems like the system is doing a pretty good job of destroying itself, and all I need to do is breathe, and be patient.

"Slowly, painstakingly, like ants, men would make their paths and civilization and their wars once again, only to have it wash away again."

- Kiran Desai

"Life would be much easier and substantially less painful if we lived with the knowledge of impermanence as the only constant."
- Donna Farhi

"One must be deeply aware of the impermanence of the world."

- Dogen

"Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible."

- Thich Nhat Hanh

"Nonresistance, nonjudgement, and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living."
- Eckhart Tolle

"In our instinctive attachments, our fear of change, and our wish for certainty and permanence, we may undercut the impermanence which is our greatest strength, our most fundamental identity. 
Without impermanence, there is no process. The nature of life is change. All hope is based on process."

- Rachel Naomi Remen

Change is the only constant in our Universe, and impermanence is the way of things. Nothing lasts forever. Dog eat dog capitalism, and blatant consumerism won't either. 

Indeed, they have been crumbling and dying for some time already. What you are hearing is a dirge for the system as it decays. Layered under that are the celebratory sounds of a new way coming into being.

August 19, 2018

Individual Change vs System Change

Who is responsible? Individuals? The System? Both? How much for each?

Humanity has some big challenges to overcome.

In this regard, which is more effective - fostering individual change, or tackling the source of our problems, the system itself? And who is really responsible for the state of the planet we see today?

Alex, a long time NBA reader, sent me a link to an article that has me thinking about how we got here, and the most effective way forward. The article is called "People Aren't The Worst - They Are The Only Hope For The Planet", and can be found here.

In it, the author argues that focusing on or blaming individuals as the problem, is not only wrong headed, but more importantly, lets the real culprits off the hook.

Wet wipes, for example. Some pampered people use them to wipe their bottoms with after a bowel movement (using only water is just as effective, and does no damage). Then they flush them, because the wipes are labeled as "flushable". 

The problem is, they are most definitely NOT flushable, and each year such wipes cause millions of dollars of damages to sewer systems the world over. 

Wet wipe manufacturers are fighting any attempts to change labeling so consumers would be more informed. Companies know that if people can't flush them, they won't use them. So they continue to lie and mislead.

Can we blame people for driving when the fossil fuel industry has been spending billions to promote lies and denial concerning the dangers of their product? Their own scientists have known about human driven climate change for 40 years, but spent billions of dollars spreading misinformation and denial.

Kind of like the tobacco industry, which perfected the denial industry playbook. First cigarettes were good for you. Then they might not be good for you, but they most certainly weren't bad for you. Now, after decades of denial, we know that cigarettes will slowly kill you if you persist in smoking them.

Given the enormity of  institutional  denial and misdirection, how much choice do we as individuals really have? And it is not only that, the system is a juggernaut geared toward pushing us in the direction of maintaining private profit over protecting the welfare of the general public and environment. 

Richard Heede, carbon counter extraordinaire, says, "I as a consumer bear some responsibility for my own car, etcetera. But we're living an illusion if we think we're making choices, because the infrastructure pretty much makes those choices for us."

And yet blaming individuals for all the world's problems is rampant. I suppose I have been guilty myself from time to time. Indeed, it is perhaps easiest and satisfyingly simple to target individuals for all our woes. 

Take author Brian Czech, for example. In his book, "Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train: Errant Economists, Shameful Spenders, and a Plan to Stop Them All", he asks readers to recognize conspicuous consumers as "bad citizens who are liquidating our grandkids’ future". 

I am tempted to see it in just this way, but have to wonder if it is "bad people" that we should concentrate on, or "bad ideas", like predatory capitalism. 

Perhaps it is "human nature" to flaunt one's wealth. To waste excessively. To want to "buy nice things" ad infinitum. To be ultimately selfish. Some people think just that. 

If so, what hope for change is there? If it is human nature, aren't we doomed?

I don't think these are innate desires - I believe we have been trained to be this way from birth, because it maximizes profit for the privileged few. Everything in a consumer culture promotes a way of life based on private consumption, rather than social, or public achievement.

Can we be therefore be blamed, and be held responsible? Are we not victims of the real perpetrators of the destruction of our planet? Doesn't focusing on what "we" can do let the real culprits off easy? What about what "they" can do? Or should do?

Just how much environmental damage do we create compared to the 90 companies and government-run industries, according to Heede, that have contributed more than half of the greenhouse gases emitted globally between 1751 and 2010? 

Individuals, however, can not be totally let off the hook. All users of damaging things bear some responsibility. And as Ram Das says, "As one individual changes, the system changes", so what we each do has cumulative, and often large, effects. 

Each of our decisions matter. The good ones, and the not so good.

Fixing what is wrong with this planet is a shared responsibility. Individuals will have to change. And so will the system. So far people have been changing, and government and economics have not. The source of the problem continues relatively unchallenged.

In "Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?", author Mark Fisher optimistically points out that "the very oppressive pervasiveness of capitalist realism means that even glimmers of alternative political and economic possibilities can have a disproportionately great effect. The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible again.” 

New disruptive technologies, such as those that enable the sharing economy, or old, like voluntary simplicity, could be what "tears a hole in the grey curtain" of our harmful system that is so bent on violence and destruction for fun and profit.

Right now the system is ripe for change, and it will be changed by events and decisions from the tiniest to the largest. Change will be ushered in by individuals, and by widespread, massive, and timely system change.

It is time to think big and challenge the establishment's "facts" which conclude that "there are no alternatives". Of course there are alternatives - anything is possible, like concluding that the system is the biggest problem, not whether I, personally, drive or take the bus.

Maybe it is time to be more lenient with the victims, and harsher on the perpetrators. And the biggest perp of all, is the system itself. 

“If you believed in capitalism, you had to attack science, because science had revealed the hazards that capitalism had brought in its wake. The biggest hazard of them all—one that could truly affect the entire planet—was just at that moment coming to public attention: global warming. 
Global warming would become the mother of all environmental issues, because it struck at the very root of economic activity: the use of energy. So perhaps not surprisingly, the same people who had questioned acid rain, doubted the ozone hole, and defended tobacco now attacked the scientific evidence of global warming.”  
― Naomi Oreskes

August 15, 2018

Virtual Communities of Mutual Support

Any time a person wishes to stand in opposition to mainstream ideas, it is essential to also have a community for mutual support. So it is with those opting out of mainstream consumerism through voluntary simplicity.

How many North Americans have quit consumerism? It is hard to say, but one study found that only 3% of Americans meet the basic qualifications for living a "healthy lifestyle", and I imagine that living simply and living a healthy lifestyle are somewhat related.

Suffice it to say, the percentage of citizens that consider themselves as engaging in voluntary simplicity is tiny (but growing). That makes mutual support even more important.

Such support takes many forms. Like hugs, for example. But the form I would like to highlight are virtual communities of mutual support (not that there is anything wrong with hugs). 

Blogs are one example, and one that has been very important for me and Linda. In our quest to offer support through the Not Buying Anything blog, we have found support, and we appreciate being able to both give and receive help here.

Another virtual community of mutual support that I have been involved in is Reddit. There are a seemingly infinite number of different kinds of groups to be found there, but my favourite is r/simpleliving.

I participated in this community a few years ago when it was still in its infancy, and I was starting this blog. The two went together well at that moment in my writing, and my practice of simplicity, and I still check in from time to time.

When I initially became involved, the group had 309 subscribers (or members), and the moderator that originally started the group had just quit. I took it over, and helped moderate the small group of consumer resisters that wished to help each other out while celebrating the joys of the simple life. 

After a while, the numbers began to grow.

Since I took over as moderator in 2010, the number of subscribers has grown from 309 to over 126,000 simple souls celebrating their shared passion for authentic living outside mainstream consumerism. What a pleasure it has been to see this group grow over the years.

There is strength in numbers, and in being organized, and in being a strong support for each other. After I stepped aside as moderator after a few years, a group of excellent people took over and continued to improve the community to the point where it is today.

For some good discussion, practical ideas, and a supportive community, I recommend you check it out at:

If we are going to get the Simple Living Revolution fully out of the box, we are going to have to stick together and help each other out in any way we can.

Virtual communities of mutual support are one way to make that happen. 

Thank you for your participation in building Not Buying Anything into one such community. We are coming up to 2 million page views! That is a lot of support, and it gives me hope.

August 13, 2018

Thank You Bees

Bees working kabocha squash flowers in my early morning sun-drenched garden.
Bees have not been doing well over the past few years (along with many other insects and pollinators). Declines in wild pollinators may be a result of habitat loss and degradation, while decline in managed bees is linked to disease (introduced parasites and pathogens). Pesticides are also a problem.

We should all thank bees for the enormous ecological services they provide (they are also amazing creatures in their own right, regardless of what they can do for us). 

There are many, many important foods and crops that bees help pollinate. Winter  squash are one such food. Others include blueberries, almonds, chocolate and coffee. 

Thankfully, every morning I go out to my garden I hear the busy buzz of bees as they pollinate freshly opened buttercup/kabocha and butternut squash flowers. It is a happy sound that makes my stomach growl.

Bees are perfect for the job of flitting from flower to flower, and if they disappear it will impact our food sources significantly. Now might be a good time to learn how to hand pollinate garden vegetables. 

Gardeners in some parts of the world that have low bee numbers are finding that they need to pollinate plants like squash by hand. 

If we continue to lose bees, we risk losing many of the foods we eat. Or we will need to hand pollinate every flower by hand ourselves. 

Watch for the up and coming career of the future: Pollinator Technician. Steady hand, keen eyesight and attention to detail needed. Work starts at sunrise. Helps if you are really small and can fly. And work for free.

Thank you bees.

August 10, 2018

Garden Mojo: Beans, Corn, and Squash

Only if every silk is pollinated will the cob have a full compliment of kernels.

This year we are growing corn for the first time in a long while. I am glad we did because I have discovered some new garden mojo. 

While working in the garden, and as the corn grew taller, I tuned into the magical music of wind rustled corn leaves. It is a sound both soothing, and invigorating, like falling rain, or ocean waves pounding on a sandy beach.

I have never stood in the middle of a corn field on a windy day, but I imagine that it must sound like a million pairs of hands clapping. Corn leaves in a symphony of rustling, applauding the forces of nature that allow it to create life in a uniquely beautiful form.

Pole beans starting up the corn stalks.

I discovered recently that each golden silky hair that emerges out of the cob's tip is connected to an individual kernel inside. Any silk that does not get fertilized by pollen falling from the male parts above, will result in a underdeveloped or missing kernel. 

I guess that makes sense from a scientific perspective, but it seems like more garden mojo to me.

This year we teamed our rustling corn patch with winter squash and pole beans. These are the plants of Three Sisters fame, developed by various North American native groups over thousands of years.

Native Americans know garden mojo, and have long considered the Three Sisters to be sacred. For a good reason - corn, beans and squash make for magical gardening, and nutrition.

"The three crops benefit from each other. The maize provides a structure for the beans to climb, eliminating the need for poles. The beans provide the nitrogen to the soil that the other plants use, and the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight, helping prevent the establishment of weeds. 
The squash leaves also act as a "living mulch", creating a microclimate to retain moisture in the soil, and the prickly hairs of the vine deter pests. 
Corn, beans, and squash contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and all eight essential amino acids, allowing most Native American tribes to thrive on a plant-based diet."
- from Wikipedia 

"Rustle, rustle, rustle." 

That is the sound of garden mojo at work.

August 7, 2018

The Earth Charter: Guide To A Better World

We are at a time in human history where we are having to make choices that will be crucial to our continued survival. The Earth Charter, first proposed in 1987 in the UN report "Our Common Future", is currently the best framework for global change that we have at present.

I am sharing some quotes from the preamble of this hopeful road map to a just, peaceful, and sustainable future, and highly recommend checking out the Charter in its entirety by clicking here

For some interesting background information click here. For example:

"The Commission proceeded to draft the Earth Charter as a people’s treaty, because there was little interest among governments in negotiating new and stronger commitments regarding the environment and sustainable development." 

In the background article, the author says about the Charter:

"It is designed to inspire in all peoples a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family, the greater community of life, and future generations.   
It is at once an urgent call for major social and economic change and an expression of hope.   
The principles in the Earth Charter were developed in and through a decade long, world-wide, cross-cultural, interfaith dialogue on common goals and shared values."

The photographs in this post are from a wilderness biking/hiking adventure I took last week through an old growth Acadian forest near my home. 

"The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples.  
The protection of Earth's vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust."

"When basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more.  
We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. 
Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions."

"The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. 

The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. 

Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living." 

"The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.”  

"Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world."

"In order to build a sustainable global community, the nations of the world must renew their commitment to the United Nations, fulfill their obligations under existing international agreements, and support the implementation of Earth Charter principles with an international legally binding instrument on environment and development."

Can you find the frog?

"Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life."

The Earth Charter is something I can get behind. These are words to live by, and ones that just may save our butts if successfully implemented.

I wonder what choice we will make.