P H I L O S O P H Y G A R D E N I N G H O M E S T E A D I N G
C R E A T I V I T Y
E C O L O G Y
Flowers can bear fruit. Those fruits can alter the
evolutionary history of their species if they become plants.
Yet not all flowers fruit and few fruits grow into plants.
Does that make the rest of them failures?
Those masses of flowers attracted the pollinators and
provided the pollen that made fruit possible. The genetic
coding carried in a grain of pollen, from a flower that didn’t
fruit, might lead to disease resistance or heat tolerance.
Also don’t forget that those flowers and their pollen were
only possible thanks to the tree that bore them, the
community of soil life that nurtured the tree, and the air,
water, climate, and sunlight that underpin all life on earth.
Humans aren’t always good at appreciating the details
and complexities of natural (or even human) processes. But
with or without our recognition, everything on earth has
significance, down to the smallest grain of pollen or unit of
ordinary matter (an atom).
Every bloom is an expression of eons
of evolution and countless,
The challenges of the present, and what we’ve faced the
past few years, weren’t localized. These issues have afflicted
every culture and society on the planet.
The massive scale of disruption to our global human
systems has left many of us feeling rattled and afraid. Sadly, the
problems to date are only the beginning of the unavoidable
ecological challenges human activity has already set in motion.
In the face of these challenges, will we wallow in anger, live
in misery, place blame on others, and allow negativity to
devour us from within? Or will we find meaning by channeling
our distress into effectively adapting, regenerating our natural
world, being of service to each other, and creating an
alternate, more loving trajectory than the one we are now on.
This is the test of our humanity.
The Epicurean Garden
We live on a garden planet, floating in an otherwise
uninhabitable corner of space. The food, water, and air we
consume depend on complex interactions that impact us all.
❖ Air circles the earth collecting and transporting essences (like
California fire smoke visible against a New York City skyline.)
❖ Air picks up evaporated water, full of particles (or pollutants),
carries it hundreds to thousands of miles then drops it as rain.
❖ Soil absorbs rain, delivers it to water tables and to waterways
that humans, animals, plants, fish, and fungi rely on.
❖ As we consume, our waste also enters that system becoming
part of our air, soil, water, food, and surroundings.
This connectedness is inescapable. Some call it the web of
life. Whether we realize it or not, we are all tending this garden
earth, every day, with every choice, and every action we take.
What an incredibly empowering thought…
Our actions do impact the entire world!
We can garden in ways that require minimal maintenance
and produce better yields, while improving the natural systems
that underpin our lives on earth. This kind of gardening goes by
names like natural gardening, permaculture, plant guilding,
forest gardening, no till, biomimicry, wild gardening, and more.
By using inter, under or companion planting, cover cropping,
mulching, green manuring, composting and other natureinspired
ideas you can fast-track soil improvement, increase
water retention, and better support plant and wildlife health as
you enjoy and harvest from your garden.
The point of natural gardening isn’t to control nature or to
let nature do all the work. Instead, we gain experience by
studying nature. Then we use human ingenuity to engage those
natural concepts in thoughtful ways to create the gardens of
our dreams and heal the earth!
Systems in the
Mimicking natural biological systems (biomimicry) is a
beautiful way to make gardening easier. For example, in forests,
nature grows plants in layers to maximize soil use, sunlight access,
moisture retention, and support wildlife without creating resource
scarcity or plant competition.
❖ Tall trees have leaf shapes and branching habits that allow light
to filter down to lower trees and shrubs.
❖ Shorter trees, shrubs of various sizes, vines, and ground cover
thrive together using different soil depths and root types to
create a multi-layered story of textures, shape, and flowers.
❖ These layers create habitat for insects, birds, reptiles, and
mammals to co-exist by sharing resources, nourishing each
other and the soil, while natural cycles regulate populations.
You can replicate those ideas in your garden using good plant
selection. Look at local, natural examples in your bioregion for
inspiration. Then emulate nature using cultivated plants.
A key concept in natural gardening is to grow plants in guilds
that mimic natural patterns. A guild, of plants or people, is a
community that works together for a common purpose.
On the next page, chestnuts, maple, tulip poplar, pine, paw
paws, elderberries, grapes, blackberries, lemon balm,
peppermint, broadleaf plantain, curly dock, Carolina allspice,
honeyberries, winecap mushrooms, and even ornamental
hydrangeas cooperate to create a mostly self-growing simulated
human-centric forest, called a food forest.
Similarly, the pollinator guild shown on this page works on
the natural principle of seasonal plant colonies. Blocks of single
plant types, are sown together like a quilt to attract and support
pollinators by making it easy for them to forage in one place.
Each plant flowers, one after another, to ensure a continuous
food supply and visual interest. When early season plants die,
their leaf matter feeds soil and late season plants grow up to
occupy the space and support wildlife.
Grow a Food Forest
A fun way learn how to build complex, purposeful guilds is to
start with companion planting. The goal is to intentionally grow two
plants together to support each other’s health needs.
For example, in clay soil, chicory roots use abundant clay
minerals and rain to grow taproots that break up compaction and
improve drainage. Since lavender requires good drainage, it can
be hard to grow in clay soil. However, when co-planted with
chicory, the chicory helps moisture percolate deeper and so
lavender roots dry out faster.
Likewise, underplanting grape vines with oregano encourages
deeper grape roots, moderates soil temperature and moisture,
reduces weeds, and mitigates fungal pathogens. Oregano would
outcompete shallow rooted plants. But it’s beneficial under
pathogen prone plants with the capacity to root deeply.
Do research, experiment, and then follow your instincts to find
useful companion combinations for your garden. If they work well,
try them in a new location to confirm effectiveness. If they don’t
work, reason out what went wrong, then try another combination.
Try Hedgerows and
Growing annuals between plots of perennials creates an
environment that is healthier for both kinds of plants,
increases potential yields, cuts down on gardening work, and
creates safe havens for resident wildlife.
❖ In crop fields, grow hedgerows between fields.
❖ In small backyards, grow a multispecies perennial hedge
around your fence area with annuals to the center.
❖ As part of a food forest, grow annual beds in lanes between
forest strips called alley cropping.
To support plant health and soil life in these mixed-use
areas, apply high carbon mulch like chipped or shredded
wood and fallen leaves under perennials. Opt for long-aged
compost or green under annual plants.
Bill Mollison and David Holmgren codified the idea of
“Permaculture” as permanent culture. Permaculture, as they
envisioned it, requires a philosophical shift of provisioning our
human needs with deep regard for the health of all natural
systems. It starts with a well-researched, comprehensive plan for
implementation that is unique to your home. You can learn more
As a first step, consider creating a Permaculture garden. This is
a “closed loop system” not dependent on continually buying
things like seeds, fertilizer, livestock feed, fuel, or other items.
Permaculture gardens utilize rainwater. They contain mostly
perennial and self-sowing plants or plants you can easily
propagate at home. They typically include forage-fed livestock
for food and soil fertility. They run on a zero-waste principle
wherein everything is composted or upcycled. They require
good planning and intelligent work to establish. But then
become low maintenance.
Natural Gardening is Beautiful!
There’s a misconception that natural gardens must be
disorderly in appearance. They must mostly follow natural
principles such as no synthetic products, no herbicides or
pesticides, adding organic matter to soil, and using diverse
plantings. Yet, that still allows room for personalization.
Planting areas will be more crowded and diverse. But you
can play with color and leaf texture. Straight rows of
monocrops are infrequent as they promote weeds and pests.
However, organized planting in diamond patterns, blocks, and
spirals are lovely and effective alternatives.
Natural gardens, like any garden, should reflect your
personal tastes. Include cozy seating areas, pretty pots,
sculpture, arbors, orderly paths, or other creative or decorative
items to make your natural garden appealing to you!
People frequently pick up ingredients at the supermarket,
cutting out months of time spent growing those ingredients. It’s
even normal to buy pre-made foods to stage like homemade.
Homesteading is the antithesis of that instant gratification
lifestyle. Instead, you embrace the pleasure of spending 3
months to grow fava beans, 5+ months for milk to make yogurt
sauce, 7 months to raise pigs and cure bacon, and 14 months
for a shiitake mushroom harvest from inoculated logs for the
simple homestead dish shown here.
Of course, you don’t really start dinner 14 months early. You
grow or raise what you love, that’s also suitable for your
conditions. Then, you decide what to cook based on what’s
harvestable in the garden, stashed in the pantry, and that
ideates from your imagination.
Your past work of choosing, growing, caring, and preserving
become your present inspiration.
Many people think the opposite of instant gratification is
delayed gratification. But that’s only if you do it wrong!
❖Sowing seeds with care and attention is a relaxing act.
❖Watering plants is a chance to commune with nature.
❖Harvesting and using garden weeds makes weeding a
❖Harvesting is a sensual experience of color, aroma,
texture, and sampling for readiness.
❖Cooking is a loving act of self, family, and friend care.
❖Eating is the culmination of months of joyful Epicurean
Don’t delay gratification. Increase it
exponentially by enjoying every moment!
The Multiplier Effect
Another common misconception about
homesteading is that it’s expensive. That
shouldn’t be the case since the primary goal is
to decrease dependence on bought goods.
Smart, one-time investments will multiply in
value with good care. One seed becomes thirty.
Thirty seeds re-planted become 900. Several
hens and a rooster provide meat and eggs for
years. Fruit trees planted once can produce for
Forego the Factory Approach
Homesteading can be costly if your focus is factory
production. Buying 50 broilers and fattening them under
lights, in a brooder, on bagged feed then processing all at
once can be cheaper than buying from the grocery store. But
it requires equipment, start-up money, an exhausting
slaughter day, and a big freezer!
Letting your heritage breed, free-range laying hen hatch
out a few chicks, requires only a little supplemental feed, and
garden/kitchen scraps. You also need a good knife, a little
skill, and few minutes of processing time before you cook.
To become less dependent on money, focus on selfsustaining
systems rather than the factory approach. Look to
pre-industrial farming methods and nature for inspiration.
Avoid Hard Work!
Whenever homesteading feels like hard work, that’s
a perfect time to slow down, solve problems, and
revise routines to make it more enjoyable. A cup of a
tea, time outdoors, and a good journal session can
reveal the reasons why work feels hard.
Have you set unreasonable deadlines? Is your back,
rather than your brain, doing the heavy lifting? Can you
break tasks down, extend them over time, and make
them more manageable? Did you take a wrong path?
Homesteading takes work, but it doesn’t have to be hard.
Some homesteading paths are less costly than others.
❖ Pressure canning requires a canner, a heat source, precise
recipes, special ingredients, and jars. Fermenting only requires
salt or sugar and containers you already have.
❖ Aged cheese needs freeze-dried cultures and an aging cave.
Fresh cheese requires only rennet or vinegar.
❖ Traditional gardening requires fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides,
and reduces harvests as soil life and health declines. Organic
gardening improves soil and increases harvests over time
using compost you make from free resources.
❖ Fast-germinating, short season annual crops can be directsown
in the garden. Long season/hard to start crops require
pots, indoor lighting, heat, and hardening off before
You can do it all of these if you want to. But to save money
now, start simple and invest your savings in the tasks you enjoy.
Once upon a time, I sat in an office dreaming about living the
writing life. Now I am writing a novel about a character stifled by
her office life who finds her way into a parallel world that runs on
I am drawing from my experience of feeling stifled in the
office and now living in more natural ways. Plus, I’m researching
ideas I don’t know and seeking experiences I haven’t had as part
of the creative process.
Writing starts with what we know and then takes us deeper
into topics we want to learn about. It’s an excuse to try things,
engage with new people, and escape the extreme limitations of
You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from the writing life.
Take what you know, engage with a new experience, and
imagine the parts you don’t know to expand your appreciation
and deepen your relationship with topics of interest.
❖ What life would be like if you didn’t have to follow the clock or
rush to meet meaningless deadlines
❖ How you’d live if all life’s resources were free like sunlight
❖ What life would be like you if you eliminated the things about
your current life that seem silly and extraneous and wasteful
❖ What you’d do if you were transported to a different culture
with different language
❖ How beautiful your surroundings would be if you could create
your own world
Write ways to make your
dreams come true!
Culture is a matter of subjective storytelling. In the US, we
tell ourselves the Constitution is the basis for deciding the
validity of new laws. But the constitution was created by now
dead, fault-filled humans, in a time when today’s technology
was unimaginable. The Constitution only matters now because
we still collectively choose to believe that story.
The American dream of a college education, a stable job
where you work hard so you can buy a house, cars, furniture,
and save for retirement is another example. There’s no natural
reason for us to live like that. But so many people believe that
story, it’s treated as normal while natural living is abnormal.
Some of the stories we believe limit our life choices and
make it hard to adapt to the changes happening today.
Sometimes we need to create and believe in new stories to
effectively engage our present reality.
Do your stories need updating?
The Creative Well
When you are tapped into the creative well -- words,
images, ideas, and other forms creative expression
bubble up inside you and overflow into art, stories,
gardens, design plans, and more. Creativity flows out into
all areas of your life transforming mundane experiences
The creative well is abundant and available to anyone
who wants to tap in. But it’s not an app you turn on and
off. It’s a force you attract by taking risks.
Some of your early attempts at creation may be
complete and embarrassing disasters. Do it any way
because trying and failing is the price of admission to
develop a direct connection to the creative well.
We often talk about earth as a planet with finite resources.
But that’s not entirely true. Rays from the sun are continually
shining new resources, in the form of light energy, into our
Plants and other organisms use that sunlight plus finite
resources from soil, water, air, and non-organic material to
produce simple sugars. Those sugars then feed life forms
that feed other life forms up and down the food chain.
Every “renewable resource” on earth depends on the
combing of sunlight and finite resources from inside our
atmosphere. All life is fed by sunlight that’s beamed in every
second of every day from 93 million miles away.
Amazingly, the sun never receives a dollar of payment
from the earth for all that energy or the products made using
it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Life is Change
Life is change. From the moment a living thing begins to
when it ends, it alters and is altered by its environment. On
the scale of planetary time, the lifespan of every living thing
is incredibly short. Our entire human history is just over a
minute on a 12-hour clock. A single lifespan is smaller than
an eyelash (or the largest known bacterium) on that scale.
To imagine that life is static, that things should stay the
same, to be wary or unwilling to embrace change is to deny
the truth of our entire planetary history and the history of
the innumerable lives lived before now.
The one fundamental truth in all of nature is that to live is
to change and be changed. We can change in chosen and
meaningful ways or be changed by the life that happens to
us. What we can’t do, is be unchanged and continue to live.
Embrace Change: Learn,
Adapt, Improve, Grow, Give,
Love, Live with Purpose
In nature, when food is abundant species increase their
populations. During periods of scarcity, species depopulate
with fewer births, shorter lifespans, or migration. Alternatively,
species alter diets and living habits to use different resources.
These cycles of scarcity amount to a self-regulating system
that ensure the survival of the greatest number of species.
Also, in the long-run thanks to free inputs of resources like
sunlight, natural systems tend toward abundance overall.
By contrast, after WWII, humans embraced the new idea
that we must alter the environment to support increased
population growth rates and enable ways of living that aren’t
Ecologically speaking, that choice hasn’t created long-term
abundance. It’s led to rapid declines in resources, human
crowding, constant scarcity and struggle for most species
including humans, enormous loss of natural diversity and
massive human caused climate change.
Is it time to consider alternative modes of living?
Humans have an estimated 6000+ thoughts per day. But how
many of those are repetitive? How many are meaningful? How
many are formed in response to things happening all around?
How many are original, practical, aspirational, harmful, or ugly?
Having more thoughts doesn’t make a person smarter or
happier. It usually means they are easily distracted, unable to
sustain a single idea, focused on repetitive negative thoughts,
and highly influenced by other people or situations.
Intentionally sustaining important and complex thoughts over
a long period of time can alter brain chemistry and increase
intelligence in ways that random thoughts simply can’t.
Focusing on a complex, but automated task (like breathing or
the germination of a seed) requires too much focus for many
modern humans. But if you can quiet your mind and stay
focused on one thought line, without succumbing to distractions,
you will begin to understand nature.
Life is Short.
Make it Meaningful!
Want More Epicurean Ideas?
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