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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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Epicurean Living

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?

Everything

Matters!

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,

community contributions.


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.

Finding

Meaning

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.

The Garden

❖ 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!


Garden Care


Natural Gardening

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!


Use Biomimicry


Mimic Natural

Biological

Systems in the

Garden

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.

Unite Purposeful

Plant Guilds

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


Companion

Planting

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

Alley Cropping


Perennial Support

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.


Consider Permaculture


Permaculture

Gardening

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

at https://holmgren.com.au/.

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!


Nature Inspired

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!


The Epicurean

Homestead


Homestead Reality

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.


Extend Your

Gratification

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

pleasure.

❖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

homesteading.

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

decades.


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.

Start Simple

❖ 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

transplanting.

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.


Epicurean Creativity


The

Writing

Life

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

natural concepts.

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

personal experience.

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.


Write about…

❖ 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!


Story Telling

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

into celebrations.

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.


Epicurean Ecology


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

atmosphere.

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.

Free Cycling

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

naturally sustainable.

Abundance

and Scarcity

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.

Ecological Thinking

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?

• Check out my books!

• Visit me at Simplestead.com.

• Follow me on Instagram

@exploresimplestead.

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