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Archive for the ‘Simple Living’ Category

 1876711558_74d4c6bd29Photo by: random letters

It had been many years since I last went camping, but in the last few months I have been aching for more time in the mountains surrounded by trees. Living on the coast in Southern California makes it difficult to get my dose of green, so I’ve been pestering hubby for weeks to take me camping. Finally we made the time to go the other weekend. We packed up all our stuff, put the dog in the back and headed off to the mountains for a couple of days hiking. Even though I knew I wanted to love camping, I wasn’t really sure how I was going to like it. Thankfully I loved every minute of it and I think there were a couple of important lessons that could be integrated back into my everyday life:

  • Making do with what we we have. While camping, we only have limited amounts of food and water. Being happy eating from our limited stores is a good mental skill to have.
  • Enjoying the simple things. Building a fire, practicing on the slackline or making a coffee over the camp stove can all be lessons in living in the moment and enjoying the simple things.
  • Remaining flexible. On our first day of hiking, our dog was not well. After one and a half hour hours of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail she simply stopped and would not get up again. Hubby had to put her over his shoulders (all 62 pounds or 28kg) and carried her out. Thankfully we weren’t too far from a road, so I sat with her in the shade while hubby went back for the car. Our day of hiking was somewhat ruined, but conducting a medical evacuation for our dog was a good lesson in remaining flexible to changing conditions.

Since getting back to our everyday life, I’ve been dreaming of heading back to the mountains. Unfortunately we don’t have any weekends free at the moment, but later this month we plan to spend a week in Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming…camping all the way. I can’t wait.

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I’m back

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Photo by: Stuck in Customs

I’ve been off gallivanting around the country for the last month and now I’m finally home. I spent a wonderful week in Alaska visiting a good friend with my Husband and my Sister-in-Law. Afterwards, my friend and I spent a long weekend in New York City and then I was off to Washington, DC and Cape Canaveral, Florida for two week-long work conferences.

Something has intrinsically changed in me. I no longer get the huge thrill that travelling used to instill in me. Sure, it was great seeing new places and catching up with various friends that I haven’t seen for some time, but the whole time I felt like I was no longer being true to the new me. All those miles travelling via air, consuming convenient food and being exposed to all the waste that modern industrial  society produces really bugged me. In fact, I was beyond being bugged by it. I physically cringed.

At some point in the last three months I’ve reached a tipping point. I had gone from someone who was casually downshifting their life to someone whose fundamental value system has taken a massive leap. Now I’m at a point where values I’ve held for much of my life are conflicting with new, strongly held beliefs. To be honest, it feels good. Scary, but good.

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog for this reason. I was having a hard enough time working through things in my head, let alone putting it coherently on the screen. I was reading so much, thinking so much and all at a frenetic pace. A month away let me digest some of it, and hopefully I can now begin writing down what I’m feeling and where to from here.

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I’ve been very quiet in the blogging world this week. Instead I have been doing lots of reading and lots of planning. I’ve devoured countless documentaries, articles and a whole book this week as I was searching for more information on peak oil. The Crash Course I watched last weekend set something off in me. I had been downshifting to a simpler life, but somehow after all this reading it all seems all the more important that we prepare for a life with less fossil fuels. It suddenly became very clear that the next 20 years are going to be completely unlike the last 20 years, and I want to prepare myself for that. I’m sure I’ll expand more on what I’m thinking, but here’s a quick list of what I’ve been doing this week.

  • I made the very big decision to sell the remainder of my shares. I’ve sold them for quite a loss and I’ll leave the reasoning to a separate post.
  • I’ve prepared a shopping list for a stockpile of food and equipment in the case of disaster. After seeing those terrible fires rip through the southern parts of Australia while the north dealt with cyclones (hurricanes) and mass flooding I thought I really should get myself prepared to deal with a similar situation. I live in Southern California where huge fires or an earthquake are not impossibilities. I rather be self sufficient and perhaps have enough for friends if the power goes out or the shelves run bare.
  • We have our garden cleared and tilled ready for the heirloom vegetable seeds I ordered last week. I can’t wait to get started.
  • I shared my thoughts and plans with my best friend. I was expecting her to call me crazy, but she is completely on the same page. I’m so thankful I now have someone else in my real life to talk to about such things. I’ve also been planting the seeds for more in-depth conversations with both my parents. My sister is a lost cause for the moment.
  • We’ve been doing more by hand. I’m more vigilant about not using the dryer so I went without certain clothes during the recent rains. We’ve also been hand-washing the dishes for the last week. They are small steps, but I feel like I’m setting myself on the path of increased resilience if I had to do without certain luxuries like a dishwasher.
  • We’ve been making meals completely from scratch. No jars, no canned foods. Just dried staples such as flour, oats, sugar, legumes and fresh produce which comes from the farmers market as much as possible. We’ve actually enjoyed the challenge of preparing a meal with what we have at hand rather than rushing off to the grocery store for specific ingredients.
  • We’ve spent next to nothing in the last few weeks. I ride my bike to work and the car has not needed gas, our diet of making do has reduced the cost of groceries, and our entertainment has consisted of free activities like hikes in nature, book clubs, free matinee movies and a home-cooked dinner party with friends.
  • We are also starting to go to local events in our community regarding renewable energy, water conservation, gardening and composting. Just meeting like minded people has been such a boost.

Photo by: h.koppdelaney

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2085541144_b925053054_mThis weekend I have been completely engrossed in watching The Crash Course, which is Chris Martensen’s best attempt to explain exactly how we got into this economic crisis. 

While The Crash Course is divided into small video sections of 3-18 minutes each, the whole thing runs just over 3 hours. We had it on DVD and watched the whole thing from beginning to end. While I already knew many of the themes in this presentation (Economic slump, Peak Oil, Environmental Problems, Baby Boomer Retirement, World Overpopulation), I found The Crash Course  an excellent way of summarizing it all and showing how they all relate.  

I’ve been dedicated to downshifting during the last few months, but somehow becoming aware of all this information has made the task more imperative and urgent for me. As I digest all of this more fully, I’m sure I’ll share my thoughts over the coming weeks and months.

If any of you have already seen this presentation, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo by: azrainman

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Since Hubby and I are home for the entire month and not traveling anywhere, I’ve decided to get involved with a monthly challenge over at Crunchy Chicken. The challenge this month is to reduce the amount of food waste in our household. 

We don’t deliberately waste food and we always make an effort to turn food which is on its way out into something edible. Inevitably though, we forget some feta cheese in the back of the fridge or find some old rubbery celery in the crisper weeks after it resembled anything edible. Thankfully we have a dog who eats almost anything so most of our waste isn’t going into landfill and once we have our compost system up and running, we’ll eliminate any food going to landfill at all. That’s not really the point though, wasted food is still a waste of money and a waste of energy. A lot of energy has gone into the growing and transporting of our food and throwing it out just means our environmental impact is higher than it needs to be.  

Ok, so what will we be doing this month? It’s pretty simple. Our goal is to try to reduce the amount of food we throw out, feed to the dog or put into the compost. We’ll keep track of the food that we have and make sure that it gets eaten or preserved before it goes bad and needs to be disposed. It will take a little planning, some organization and the willingness to be creative, but I’m sure we are up for it. 

Our first job yesterday was to go through the fridge and cupboards to see what’s getting close to its expiry date or is starting to go off. Here’s what I threw out:

  • Two bottles of salad dressing
  • A tube of sundried tomato paste
  • Two packets of Starbucks coffee (Didn’t even know I had them)
  • Half a bottle of very old Coca-Cola (from a party last June)
  • Quarter of a bottle of Powerade (from our trip back from Central America a month ago!)
  • Half a bunch of baby spinach 
  • Baby potatoes gone to seed
  • Dried apricots
  • A whole collection of interesting things given to us by friends as they left (pickled onions, jello, gravy mix, food collouring etc)

Here’s what’s close to expiring and which we’ll need to eat up soon:

  • Two boxes of cereal and oats
  • Gravox
  • Bread crumbs
  • Custard powder
  • Feta cheese
  • Tinned fruit
  • Long-life milk
  • Green Apples

I’m amazed at how much stuff I had to throw away. It was really quite painful, but I think it was a very necessary step to start the month with a clean slate. Now we just need to come up with some recipes to use up what’s soon to go off and then be more mindful of what we buy and eat for the rest of the month.

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“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein

 

A FREE download is available now: Leo Babauta has written a free ebook called “THRIVING ON LESS: Simplifying in a Tough Economy“. I’ve just downloaded it and plan on checking it out later today.

 

Thriving on Less: Simplifying in a Tough Economy (pdf format)

 

From the introduction:

The recent economic recession has a lot of people worried, about their jobs, their businesses, their homes and their bills. When your income is dropping or in jeopardy and you still have a mountain of bills to pay, things can get pretty scary.

However, tough economic times do not have to be a time of struggles! If you look for the opportunity in the middle of difficulty, as Mr. Einstein suggested, then tough economic times become an opportunity to transform your life.

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Lately it seems I’ve been talking a lot about nitty-gritty personal finance stuff. It’s not what I had intended for this blog, but it seems that it’s what has had me pre-occupied since the beginning of the year. I need to get all that sorted out this month so I can think more about my journey towards voluntary simplicity and sustainability. These topics are very important to me, but I feel like I can’t adequately launch into them until I’ve done some housekeeping in my mind. So I’m sorry to say that there will probably be more personal finance discussions in the comings weeks. Please bear with me.

Today however, I wanted to think more broadly. I want to talk about my dreams… the vision which drives me towards a future which is outwardly simple but inwardly rich (I’m sure I’ve taken that from somewhere, so apologies if I stole your phrase).

Here’s how I want my life to look in five years:

  • I will be living in an Australian City which is big enough to have access to all the modern conveniences, but small enough to be close to nature and have a community minded spirit.
  • I will have a smallish home (3 bedrooms) which is free of clutter and stylishly furnished with reclaimed furniture and artifacts picked up during my travels. It will have polished timber floors and large windows which allow plenty of light and warmth into the home. The walls are white and covered in photographs I’ve taken around the world. There are outdoor living areas which flow seamlessly from the house. I imagine a deck surrounded by Australian natives which attracts plenty of local bird life.
  • I will have a large block to allow us to have fruit trees and a vegetable garden in addition to workspaces for hubby and I (a decent sized shed and perhaps a photography studio). I’d love to be able to keep chickens as well (but definately no rooster!)
  • I will be able to walk to the local park or nature reserve and cycle to a local grocery store and coffee shop.
  • I will be working part-time for my current employer and part-time on a number of business ideas I have.
  • I will have time to volunteer or be involved in community activities. I may even be studying a topic of interest.
  • I will be living as green/sustainably as possible.
  • I will have at least one child who will be cared for by hubby and I the majority of the time. I want my child to be raised with our values.
  • I will have a few close friends in the area and will ensure I visit family or have them visit us regularly.
  • I will go hiking regularly and live a fit and active life.
  • I will have the opportunity to travel overseas once per year and to take mini-breaks with the family a couple of times per year.

That’s about all I can think of. Are there any others areas of life which I’ve failed to address?

What about you? Do you have a dream that you constantly refer to to make sure you are heading in the right direction?

Photo by: {Erik}

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