Epicurean Living (Issue 4)

This is the natural gardening, change, and adapt issue!

This is the natural gardening, change, and adapt issue!


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<strong>Epicurean</strong> <strong>Living</strong><br />

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<br />

C R E A T I V I T Y<br />


Flowers can bear fruit. Those fruits can alter the<br />

evolutionary history of their species if they become plants.<br />

Yet not all flowers fruit and few fruits grow into plants.<br />

Does that make the rest of them failures?<br />

Everything<br />

Matters!<br />

Those masses of flowers attracted the pollinators and<br />

provided the pollen that made fruit possible. The genetic<br />

coding carried in a grain of pollen, from a flower that didn’t<br />

fruit, might lead to disease resistance or heat tolerance.<br />

Also don’t forget that those flowers and their pollen were<br />

only possible thanks to the tree that bore them, the<br />

community of soil life that nurtured the tree, and the air,<br />

water, climate, and sunlight that underpin all life on earth.<br />

Humans aren’t always good at appreciating the details<br />

and complexities of natural (or even human) processes. But<br />

with or without our recognition, everything on earth has<br />

significance, down to the smallest grain of pollen or unit of<br />

ordinary matter (an atom).

Every bloom is an expression of eons<br />

of evolution and countless,<br />

community contributions.

The challenges of the present, and what we’ve faced the<br />

past few years, weren’t localized. These issues have afflicted<br />

every culture and society on the planet.<br />

The massive scale of disruption to our global human<br />

systems has left many of us feeling rattled and afraid. Sadly, the<br />

problems to date are only the beginning of the unavoidable<br />

ecological challenges human activity has already set in motion.<br />

Finding<br />

Meaning<br />

In the face of these challenges, will we wallow in anger, live<br />

in misery, place blame on others, and allow negativity to<br />

devour us from within? Or will we find meaning by channeling<br />

our distress into effectively adapting, regenerating our natural<br />

world, being of service to each other, and creating an<br />

alternate, more loving trajectory than the one we are now on.<br />

This is the test of our humanity.

The <strong>Epicurean</strong> Garden

We live on a garden planet, floating in an otherwise<br />

uninhabitable corner of space. The food, water, and air we<br />

consume depend on complex interactions that impact us all.<br />

The Garden<br />

❖ Air circles the earth collecting and transporting essences (like<br />

California fire smoke visible against a New York City skyline.)<br />

❖ Air picks up evaporated water, full of particles (or pollutants),<br />

carries it hundreds to thousands of miles then drops it as rain.<br />

❖ Soil absorbs rain, delivers it to water tables and to waterways<br />

that humans, animals, plants, fish, and fungi rely on.<br />

❖ As we consume, our waste also enters that system becoming<br />

part of our air, soil, water, food, and surroundings.<br />

This connectedness is inescapable. Some call it the web of<br />

life. Whether we realize it or not, we are all tending this garden<br />

earth, every day, with every choice, and every action we take.<br />

What an incredibly empowering thought…<br />

Our actions do impact the entire world!

Garden Care

Natural Gardening<br />

We can garden in ways that require minimal maintenance<br />

and produce better yields, while improving the natural systems<br />

that underpin our lives on earth. This kind of gardening goes by<br />

names like natural gardening, permaculture, plant guilding,<br />

forest gardening, no till, biomimicry, wild gardening, and more.<br />

By using inter, under or companion planting, cover cropping,<br />

mulching, green manuring, composting and other natureinspired<br />

ideas you can fast-track soil improvement, increase<br />

water retention, and better support plant and wildlife health as<br />

you enjoy and harvest from your garden.<br />

The point of natural gardening isn’t to control nature or to<br />

let nature do all the work. Instead, we gain experience by<br />

studying nature. Then we use human ingenuity to engage those<br />

natural concepts in thoughtful ways to create the gardens of<br />

our dreams and heal the earth!

Use Biomimicry

Mimic Natural<br />

Biological<br />

Systems in the<br />

Garden<br />

Mimicking natural biological systems (biomimicry) is a<br />

beautiful way to make gardening easier. For example, in forests,<br />

nature grows plants in layers to maximize soil use, sunlight access,<br />

moisture retention, and support wildlife without creating resource<br />

scarcity or plant competition.<br />

❖ Tall trees have leaf shapes and branching habits that allow light<br />

to filter down to lower trees and shrubs.<br />

❖ Shorter trees, shrubs of various sizes, vines, and ground cover<br />

thrive together using different soil depths and root types to<br />

create a multi-layered story of textures, shape, and flowers.<br />

❖ These layers create habitat for insects, birds, reptiles, and<br />

mammals to co-exist by sharing resources, nourishing each<br />

other and the soil, while natural cycles regulate populations.<br />

You can replicate those ideas in your garden using good plant<br />

selection. Look at local, natural examples in your bioregion for<br />

inspiration. Then emulate nature using cultivated plants.

A key concept in natural gardening is to grow plants in guilds<br />

that mimic natural patterns. A guild, of plants or people, is a<br />

community that works together for a common purpose.<br />

Unite Purposeful<br />

Plant Guilds<br />

On the next page, chestnuts, maple, tulip poplar, pine, paw<br />

paws, elderberries, grapes, blackberries, lemon balm,<br />

peppermint, broadleaf plantain, curly dock, Carolina allspice,<br />

honeyberries, winecap mushrooms, and even ornamental<br />

hydrangeas cooperate to create a mostly self-growing simulated<br />

human-centric forest, called a food forest.<br />

Similarly, the pollinator guild shown on this page works on<br />

the natural principle of seasonal plant colonies. Blocks of single<br />

plant types, are sown together like a quilt to attract and support<br />

pollinators by making it easy for them to forage in one place.<br />

Each plant flowers, one after another, to ensure a continuous<br />

food supply and visual interest. When early season plants die,<br />

their leaf matter feeds soil and late season plants grow up to<br />

occupy the space and support wildlife.

Grow a Food Forest

Companion<br />

Planting<br />

A fun way learn how to build complex, purposeful guilds is to<br />

start with companion planting. The goal is to intentionally grow two<br />

plants together to support each other’s health needs.<br />

For example, in clay soil, chicory roots use abundant clay<br />

minerals and rain to grow taproots that break up compaction and<br />

improve drainage. Since lavender requires good drainage, it can<br />

be hard to grow in clay soil. However, when co-planted with<br />

chicory, the chicory helps moisture percolate deeper and so<br />

lavender roots dry out faster.<br />

Likewise, underplanting grape vines with oregano encourages<br />

deeper grape roots, moderates soil temperature and moisture,<br />

reduces weeds, and mitigates fungal pathogens. Oregano would<br />

outcompete shallow rooted plants. But it’s beneficial under<br />

pathogen prone plants with the capacity to root deeply.<br />

Do research, experiment, and then follow your instincts to find<br />

useful companion combinations for your garden. If they work well,<br />

try them in a new location to confirm effectiveness. If they don’t<br />

work, reason out what went wrong, then try another combination.

Try Hedgerows and<br />

Alley Cropping

Perennial Support<br />

Growing annuals between plots of perennials creates an<br />

environment that is healthier for both kinds of plants,<br />

increases potential yields, cuts down on gardening work, and<br />

creates safe havens for resident wildlife.<br />

❖ In crop fields, grow hedgerows between fields.<br />

❖ In small backyards, grow a multispecies perennial hedge<br />

around your fence area with annuals to the center.<br />

❖ As part of a food forest, grow annual beds in lanes between<br />

forest strips called alley cropping.<br />

To support plant health and soil life in these mixed-use<br />

areas, apply high carbon mulch like chipped or shredded<br />

wood and fallen leaves under perennials. Opt for long-aged<br />

compost or green under annual plants.

Consider Permaculture

Permaculture<br />

Gardening<br />

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren codified the idea of<br />

“Permaculture” as permanent culture. Permaculture, as they<br />

envisioned it, requires a philosophical shift of provisioning our<br />

human needs with deep regard for the health of all natural<br />

systems. It starts with a well-researched, comprehensive plan for<br />

implementation that is unique to your home. You can learn more<br />

at https://holmgren.com.au/.<br />

As a first step, consider creating a Permaculture garden. This is<br />

a “closed loop system” not dependent on continually buying<br />

things like seeds, fertilizer, livestock feed, fuel, or other items.<br />

Permaculture gardens utilize rainwater. They contain mostly<br />

perennial and self-sowing plants or plants you can easily<br />

propagate at home. They typically include forage-fed livestock<br />

for food and soil fertility. They run on a zero-waste principle<br />

wherein everything is composted or upcycled. They require<br />

good planning and intelligent work to establish. But then<br />

become low maintenance.

Natural Gardening is Beautiful!

Nature Inspired<br />

There’s a misconception that natural gardens must be<br />

disorderly in appearance. They must mostly follow natural<br />

principles such as no synthetic products, no herbicides or<br />

pesticides, adding organic matter to soil, and using diverse<br />

plantings. Yet, that still allows room for personalization.<br />

Planting areas will be more crowded and diverse. But you<br />

can play with color and leaf texture. Straight rows of<br />

monocrops are infrequent as they promote weeds and pests.<br />

However, organized planting in diamond patterns, blocks, and<br />

spirals are lovely and effective alternatives.<br />

Natural gardens, like any garden, should reflect your<br />

personal tastes. Include cozy seating areas, pretty pots,<br />

sculpture, arbors, orderly paths, or other creative or decorative<br />

items to make your natural garden appealing to you!

The <strong>Epicurean</strong><br />


Homestead Reality<br />

People frequently pick up ingredients at the supermarket,<br />

cutting out months of time spent growing those ingredients. It’s<br />

even normal to buy pre-made foods to stage like homemade.<br />

Homesteading is the antithesis of that instant gratification<br />

lifestyle. Instead, you embrace the pleasure of spending 3<br />

months to grow fava beans, 5+ months for milk to make yogurt<br />

sauce, 7 months to raise pigs and cure bacon, and 14 months<br />

for a shiitake mushroom harvest from inoculated logs for the<br />

simple homestead dish shown here.<br />

Of course, you don’t really start dinner 14 months early. You<br />

grow or raise what you love, that’s also suitable for your<br />

conditions. Then, you decide what to cook based on what’s<br />

harvestable in the garden, stashed in the pantry, and that<br />

ideates from your imagination.<br />

Your past work of choosing, growing, caring, and preserving<br />

become your present inspiration.

Extend Your<br />

Gratification<br />

Many people think the opposite of instant gratification is<br />

delayed gratification. But that’s only if you do it wrong!<br />

❖Sowing seeds with care and attention is a relaxing act.<br />

❖Watering plants is a chance to commune with nature.<br />

❖Harvesting and using garden weeds makes weeding a<br />

pleasure.<br />

❖Harvesting is a sensual experience of color, aroma,<br />

texture, and sampling for readiness.<br />

❖Cooking is a loving act of self, family, and friend care.<br />

❖Eating is the culmination of months of joyful <strong>Epicurean</strong><br />

homesteading.<br />

Don’t delay gratification. Increase it<br />

exponentially by enjoying every moment!

The Multiplier Effect<br />

Another common misconception about<br />

homesteading is that it’s expensive. That<br />

shouldn’t be the case since the primary goal is<br />

to decrease dependence on bought goods.<br />

Smart, one-time investments will multiply in<br />

value with good care. One seed becomes thirty.<br />

Thirty seeds re-planted become 900. Several<br />

hens and a rooster provide meat and eggs for<br />

years. Fruit trees planted once can produce for<br />


Forego the Factory Approach<br />

Homesteading can be costly if your focus is factory<br />

production. Buying 50 broilers and fattening them under<br />

lights, in a brooder, on bagged feed then processing all at<br />

once can be cheaper than buying from the grocery store. But<br />

it requires equipment, start-up money, an exhausting<br />

slaughter day, and a big freezer!<br />

Letting your heritage breed, free-range laying hen hatch<br />

out a few chicks, requires only a little supplemental feed, and<br />

garden/kitchen scraps. You also need a good knife, a little<br />

skill, and few minutes of processing time before you cook.<br />

To become less dependent on money, focus on selfsustaining<br />

systems rather than the factory approach. Look to<br />

pre-industrial farming methods and nature for inspiration.

Avoid Hard Work!<br />

Whenever homesteading feels like hard work, that’s<br />

a perfect time to slow down, solve problems, and<br />

revise routines to make it more enjoyable. A cup of a<br />

tea, time outdoors, and a good journal session can<br />

reveal the reasons why work feels hard.<br />

Have you set unreasonable deadlines? Is your back,<br />

rather than your brain, doing the heavy lifting? Can you<br />

break tasks down, extend them over time, and make<br />

them more manageable? Did you take a wrong path?<br />

Homesteading takes work, but it doesn’t have to be hard.

Some homesteading paths are less costly than others.<br />

Start Simple<br />

❖ Pressure canning requires a canner, a heat source, precise<br />

recipes, special ingredients, and jars. Fermenting only requires<br />

salt or sugar and containers you already have.<br />

❖ Aged cheese needs freeze-dried cultures and an aging cave.<br />

Fresh cheese requires only rennet or vinegar.<br />

❖ Traditional gardening requires fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides,<br />

and reduces harvests as soil life and health declines. Organic<br />

gardening improves soil and increases harvests over time<br />

using compost you make from free resources.<br />

❖ Fast-germinating, short season annual crops can be directsown<br />

in the garden. Long season/hard to start crops require<br />

pots, indoor lighting, heat, and hardening off before<br />

transplanting.<br />

You can do it all of these if you want to. But to save money<br />

now, start simple and invest your savings in the tasks you enjoy.

<strong>Epicurean</strong> Creativity

The<br />

Writing<br />

Life<br />

Once upon a time, I sat in an office dreaming about living the<br />

writing life. Now I am writing a novel about a character stifled by<br />

her office life who finds her way into a parallel world that runs on<br />

natural concepts.<br />

I am drawing from my experience of feeling stifled in the<br />

office and now living in more natural ways. Plus, I’m researching<br />

ideas I don’t know and seeking experiences I haven’t had as part<br />

of the creative process.<br />

Writing starts with what we know and then takes us deeper<br />

into topics we want to learn about. It’s an excuse to try things,<br />

engage with new people, and escape the extreme limitations of<br />

personal experience.<br />

You don’t have to be a writer to benefit from the writing life.<br />

Take what you know, engage with a new experience, and<br />

imagine the parts you don’t know to expand your appreciation<br />

and deepen your relationship with topics of interest.

Write about…<br />

❖ What life would be like if you didn’t have to follow the clock or<br />

rush to meet meaningless deadlines<br />

❖ How you’d live if all life’s resources were free like sunlight<br />

❖ What life would be like you if you eliminated the things about<br />

your current life that seem silly and extraneous and wasteful<br />

❖ What you’d do if you were transported to a different culture<br />

with different language<br />

❖ How beautiful your surroundings would be if you could create<br />

your own world<br />

Write ways to make your<br />

dreams come true!

Story Telling<br />

Culture is a matter of subjective storytelling. In the US, we<br />

tell ourselves the Constitution is the basis for deciding the<br />

validity of new laws. But the constitution was created by now<br />

dead, fault-filled humans, in a time when today’s technology<br />

was unimaginable. The Constitution only matters now because<br />

we still collectively choose to believe that story.<br />

The American dream of a college education, a stable job<br />

where you work hard so you can buy a house, cars, furniture,<br />

and save for retirement is another example. There’s no natural<br />

reason for us to live like that. But so many people believe that<br />

story, it’s treated as normal while natural living is abnormal.<br />

Some of the stories we believe limit our life choices and<br />

make it hard to adapt to the changes happening today.<br />

Sometimes we need to create and believe in new stories to<br />

effectively engage our present reality.<br />

Do your stories need updating?

The Creative Well<br />

When you are tapped into the creative well -- words,<br />

images, ideas, and other forms creative expression<br />

bubble up inside you and overflow into art, stories,<br />

gardens, design plans, and more. Creativity flows out into<br />

all areas of your life transforming mundane experiences<br />

into celebrations.<br />

The creative well is abundant and available to anyone<br />

who wants to tap in. But it’s not an app you turn on and<br />

off. It’s a force you attract by taking risks.<br />

Some of your early attempts at creation may be<br />

complete and embarrassing disasters. Do it any way<br />

because trying and failing is the price of admission to<br />

develop a direct connection to the creative well.

<strong>Epicurean</strong> Ecology

We often talk about earth as a planet with finite resources.<br />

But that’s not entirely true. Rays from the sun are continually<br />

shining new resources, in the form of light energy, into our<br />

atmosphere.<br />

Plants and other organisms use that sunlight plus finite<br />

resources from soil, water, air, and non-organic material to<br />

produce simple sugars. Those sugars then feed life forms<br />

that feed other life forms up and down the food chain.<br />

Every “renewable resource” on earth depends on the<br />

combing of sunlight and finite resources from inside our<br />

atmosphere. All life is fed by sunlight that’s beamed in every<br />

second of every day from 93 million miles away.<br />

Free Cycling<br />

Amazingly, the sun never receives a dollar of payment<br />

from the earth for all that energy or the products made using<br />

it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Life is Change<br />

Life is change. From the moment a living thing begins to<br />

when it ends, it alters and is altered by its environment. On<br />

the scale of planetary time, the lifespan of every living thing<br />

is incredibly short. Our entire human history is just over a<br />

minute on a 12-hour clock. A single lifespan is smaller than<br />

an eyelash (or the largest known bacterium) on that scale.<br />

To imagine that life is static, that things should stay the<br />

same, to be wary or unwilling to embrace change is to deny<br />

the truth of our entire planetary history and the history of<br />

the innumerable lives lived before now.<br />

The one fundamental truth in all of nature is that to live is<br />

to change and be changed. We can change in chosen and<br />

meaningful ways or be changed by the life that happens to<br />

us. What we can’t do, is be unchanged and continue to live.

Embrace Change: Learn,<br />

Adapt, Improve, Grow, Give,<br />

Love, Live with Purpose

In nature, when food is abundant species increase their<br />

populations. During periods of scarcity, species depopulate<br />

with fewer births, shorter lifespans, or migration. Alternatively,<br />

species alter diets and living habits to use different resources.<br />

These cycles of scarcity amount to a self-regulating system<br />

that ensure the survival of the greatest number of species.<br />

Also, in the long-run thanks to free inputs of resources like<br />

sunlight, natural systems tend toward abundance overall.<br />

By contrast, after WWII, humans embraced the new idea<br />

that we must alter the environment to support increased<br />

population growth rates and enable ways of living that aren’t<br />

naturally sustainable.<br />

Abundance<br />

and Scarcity<br />

Ecologically speaking, that choice hasn’t created long-term<br />

abundance. It’s led to rapid declines in resources, human<br />

crowding, constant scarcity and struggle for most species<br />

including humans, enormous loss of natural diversity and<br />

massive human caused climate change.<br />

Is it time to consider alternative modes of living?

Humans have an estimated 6000+ thoughts per day. But how<br />

many of those are repetitive? How many are meaningful? How<br />

many are formed in response to things happening all around?<br />

How many are original, practical, aspirational, harmful, or ugly?<br />

Having more thoughts doesn’t make a person smarter or<br />

happier. It usually means they are easily distracted, unable to<br />

sustain a single idea, focused on repetitive negative thoughts,<br />

and highly influenced by other people or situations.<br />

Intentionally sustaining important and complex thoughts over<br />

a long period of time can alter brain chemistry and increase<br />

intelligence in ways that random thoughts simply can’t.<br />

Ecological Thinking<br />

Focusing on a complex, but automated task (like breathing or<br />

the germination of a seed) requires too much focus for many<br />

modern humans. But if you can quiet your mind and stay<br />

focused on one thought line, without succumbing to distractions,<br />

you will begin to understand nature.

Life is Short.<br />

Make it Meaningful!

Want More <strong>Epicurean</strong> Ideas?<br />

• Check out my books!<br />

• Visit me at Simplestead.com.<br />

• Follow me on Instagram<br />


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