Monthly Archives: February 2015

One Straw Revolution – A Book Review

Last night I finished reading The One-Straw Revolution by Mansanobu Fukuoka.  This book is part autobiographical, part philosophical, and a very small part practical application.

As a young man, Mr. Fukuoka worked as a research scientist.  He worked hard and long hours, and also enjoyed the night life after work.   Burning the candle at both ends led him to fainting at work.  Eventually he got very sick and almost died in the hospital.

After his close brush with death, he found a new inner truth.  He found that all of his life has been meaningless.  All of his pursuits, all of his work has been for nothing.  This thought could either be depressing or freeing.  I found the thought depressing.  He found this new personal truth set him “free”.  After he left the hospital, Mr. Fukuoka went to his job and quit.  All of his peers thought he was insane.

He then went and lived on his parent’s farm.  While there, he was in charge of the citrus trees.  He decided that since everything in life was meaningless,  he did not have to care for the trees. The lack of care caused all of the trees to die.  Needless to say, his father was less than happy, and Mansanobu Fukuoka had to look for work off of his father’s farm.  He eventually came back to living on a farm, and began the “no-work” farming method.  This method was planned out a little more, and he started experiencing great success with is farming methods.

This “no-work” farming method was actually quite a bit of work.  But he used no chemicals.  He grew rice without flooding the fields.  He used a cover crop of white clover and mulched with long straw.  He then scattered seeds around that were covered in clay pellets.  The clay pellets protected the seeds from rotting or being eaten by slugs  or other garden creatures.  His results were very good and comparable to his neighbors who used chemical means on their fields.  He harvested his yields using hand tools.  Nothing more.

He decried the “organic” farmers of the West (AKA Americans) as taking too much work.  The idea of composting seems like too much of a hassle. He felt they didn’t get it.  He said they could scatter the straw on the fields and essentially let the waste compost on it’s own without all the extra work of formal composting.

Other than those basics, I didn’t really get any major “how-to” take aways.  I got a lot of philosophy though.  Some of it was esoteric.  Okay, most of it was esoteric and I didn’t quite grasp what he was trying to say.  and I disagreed with some of his philosophical thoughts.  It would not be how I chose to live.  He is against what we would call progress.  From his book he stated that if our economy has an increase in growth from 5% to 10% are we twice as happy?  I agree that wealth doesn’t make us happy, but it does allow us to make more choices.  Sometimes these choices can allow us to live happier lives.   He lived his life (as far as I know) living up to his ideals.

While he expressed discontent with the way the world was doing things, he seems much more at peace with it than the Nearings from the Good Life seemed to be.  Back in the 1970s, he predicted the human race would have experienced great losses and have a sad and futile future.  Thank God he was wrong, I’m really liking being on this planet right now (and writing these blog posts for you to read).  We do have to remember, this is a Japanese human who lived through World War II.  That means that he lived through the nuclear bombing of his country at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It’s quite easy to understand how anyone who lived through that would believe that catastrophe is just around the corner.

Overall the book was a good read.  I think it will help you to become a more well-rounded gardener, and it will help you to think about your land in a different way.  However, I don’t see myself ever referencing this book for the sake of my land.  I’m glad I read this book, although I don’t see myself using any of the techniques.  His methods have been critiqued for being hard to follow and unsuccessful unless they are followed exactly.  I believe once you understand how all of his methods work, it works well.  I also believe if you don’t do it exactly his way, you may be looking at failure (even though that’s the road to success, as I talked about here).

Do I recommend you read it? If you want.  If it interests you.  I don’t consider this a must read.  I consider it a “pretty good if it’s lying around” kind of read.  Keep in mind, a lot of folks disagree with that.  So, if you are in the mood for a philosophical book with some gardening ideas, pick it up.

Failure: The Road to Success

Last night, we went out to eat.  That’s not post worthy.   Let me tell you why we went out to eat.  I caught my oven on fire.  Not a big fire.  Just a small one.  I made a pot roast and it cooked out over the dutch oven making a mess in the bottom of my oven.  I didn’t realize that.

So last night, when I preheated the oven to bake a chicken, smoke was coming from out from the oven’s seams.  Upon opening the door to investigate the smoke, I saw a small fire.  Chris used the fire extinguisher we keep under the sink and the fire was out.  It was smelly, so we had to open up the windows and the back door.  We also had a thin layer of white dust covering the entire kitchen, including the prepped chicken.  This wasn’t a big deal, but it was definitely not in the plans.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I messed up.  And it’s not going to be the last time I mess up.  I mess up in the kitchen quite often.  This is because I’m constantly trying new things, and constantly learning new things.  And I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  If I never spent any time cooking, I would have never had that small fire, I would never burn dishes or end up producing food that tastes yucky.

I think sometimes bloggers, vloggers and some teachers don’t talk about their failures.  We talk about what went right and how you can do that too.  On the road to success, new things and adventures, you are met with failure.  We all are.  Don’t give up.  If you tried to make rice, and it didn’t turn out exactly how you like it, you’ve experienced success through your failure.  You now know a way NOT to make rice.  When I first started to try to make rice, I burnt it to the bottom of the pot and spent more time cleaning up after my learning experience (AKA mistake), than I did cooking or eating the rice.  If you try to make rice enough times, you may find a new way to make it (like I did, and wrote about it here) or you will perfect the way you were trying.

What does failing mean?

It means you are trying and that you are doing something.  You won’t get better in the kitchen unless you are in the kitchen.  This applied to every aspect of life.  Sometimes you don’t necessarily fail, but it feels like you are just floundering around not making progress.  If you are working at something, with a goal in mind, you are not failing.  You are learning.  You are becoming a better version of you.

When my chicken was ruined, and the house was smokey, did I feel like I was learning, and gaining experience? No, I felt stupid.  But now, I feel a lot better.  I know that I will not make that mistake again.  I also have more empathy for anyone else who has experienced this failure.  I needed some time to collect myself and my thoughts and move forward.  But guess what? I’ll be in the kitchen tonight, again.  I’ll also continue to try new things.  And I’ll continue to fail (AKA learn through experience).  But at the other end of those failures is a more experienced and better cook.

Keep on Cookin’ (or doing whatever it is that you do…)

So please, get in the kitchen and fail.  Burn things, make things that your family wrinkles their nose at.  BUT over time, you will cook things perfectly and have meals that your family loves, meals they request.  When someone tells you about a dish they tried to make, and it didn’t turn out, you’ll be able to ask a few questions and help.  You’ll know exactly what went wrong with their recipe because you have experienced it yourself.

You are becoming better, all the time.  It doesn’t matter what you are doing, but as long as you are doing something, you will be experiencing failures AND you will be learning. You will have great successes, as well.  It doesn’t matter what you are doing, just do it.

Thank you for letting me share my failure with you.  I hope that it helps you through any challenges you may have.  I probably won’t share all of my failures with you, but know that I have them.

To quote the Red Green from the Red Green show: We’re all in this together.

Most Important Life Decision EVER

There is one decision that affects everything in your life for the rest of your life in almost every aspect of your life.  It affects your work life, your ability to live a simple life, and live the life you want.  If this decision is made correctly it won’t actually be a decision, as all of your body, soul and mind will want/need this to happen.  It’s not about where you live, go to school, your diet, your job or even if you have kids.  This “decision” is who you marry, or the decision not to marry until you find the right person for you.

Built in Support

Marrying the right person means you have a built in support system.  By built in support system, I don’t mean someone who agrees with everything you say.  If you want that,  buy a trained parrot who says “Yes”.  When I say the support system, I mean someone who will be your calmer mind when you are crazy.  Someone who helps your remember your real, long-term goals.  However, you are part of your spouse’s support system, too.  But when you are with the right person, you are happy to be able to be their support.  You with both need to be strong for each other at different times.

There will be moments that you don’t feel like being the support, but you will have to push through.  There will be times when this person does the same for you.  Getting support and giving support is a true blessing and makes a lot of life’s difficulties easier to deal with.

This support also means you always have a soft place to fall.  You still fall.  And you still learn life’s lessons.  But you have someone to run to.  My husband doesn’t solve all of my problems, but we are a team.  We brainstorm, or we listen, or we even just laugh together.  If someone is awful to me, and I tell Chris about it, I know he will be there to agree with me.

However, a good partner is also that mirror that we all  need.  He points out that maybe I am at fault for somethings that have upset me.  Granted, this doesn’t make me feel great in the moment, but it allows me to become the best person I can be.

Working Towards Common Goals

Chris and I have some goals that are separate.  We also have some goals that are the same.  We want to heat with wood.  Heating with wood is very time consuming, but for us, it is worth it.  Chris and I work together to make sure we can accomplish this.  He is the one who does 95% of the work with this.  And I appreciate it, and I try to help as best I can. In all things, I am his biggest cheer leader and he is mine (although I look better in the cheer-leading skirt).  This is true of goals we share for the household and goals we personally have.20141112_215646

Disagreements Allow Personal Growth

When we have a disagreement, we may argue in less than productive ways, but most of the time we approach our disagreement with open minds.  When we disagree, we have an open discussion which allows us to be aware of the other side of the argument, and also allows us to solidify our own side.  There are times when we don’t agree at the end of the discussion.  At that point, we both walk away and discuss at a later time.  This allows our thoughts to mature a little more.  Sometimes, this time allows us to mull over what’s going on, and either one of us changes our mind, or we are able to outline our thoughts more clearly so the other one understands.  Being able to present your side this way allows for personal growth.

There are something that Chris and I are on the same page on, but we are reading different paragraphs.  As time goes one, we may either 100% agree or not.  BUT I know that no matter what Chris loves me and I love him.  Our love is something that I know is always there, but I never just take it for granted.  Multiple times a day, I think about how blessed I am to be able to share my life with such a wonderful human being.

All of this is due to the fact that I married a wonderful guy.  If I had married someone else, someone perhaps who wasn’t supportive, or loving or open-minded, I would not have this opportunity for growth.  If I were married to a different person with a different personality type, disagreements may cause me to shrink as a person instead of grow.  I’m not sure.  But I do know that having a partner who I can trust, who trusts me and who helps me be the best me is the biggest blessing anyone could ask for.

Your Home is Your Sanctuary

When I pull in the driveway of my house, I am excited to see my husband and my child.  My favorite place to be in the world is with the two of them.  The idea of spending the rest of my life with Chris makes me smile.  When I am with him, I am home.   It struck me years ago, driving home from work, that I was so excited to get home.  More excited to get home than when I was single and no one was there.  Being married to an amazing partner who was meant for me helped turn my house into a home.

I’ve also heard the other side of things.  That one spouse makes life tough.  Or they just want some time away from a partner who is overly judgmental, negative or harsh.  Being away from their spouse is like a breath of fresh air.  I’m not saying I don’t enjoy some time to myself, but that’s speaking as a mom of a toddler, not speaking as a wife.

How does this help with my quest for Simplicity?

Oh my! So much.  We both want to live in the country.  He eats my recipes and other experiments with food.  When we first met, he was on a Burger King and Beer diet.  We both wanted chickens, so we both take care of them.  We both are invested in our son and are very active in his life and in the decisions we make to raise him.

For Mother’s Day, I spent all day playing in my garden.  It was wonderful.  He honors the person I am.  And he always makes me feel like I’m enough.

Granted sometimes Chris doesn’t like my recipes, or he thinks something I want to try is weird.  BUT he always says it with love.  Sometimes it hurts my feelings, but because I know the man he is, I am able to grow from his constructive criticism(**Note: this is most of the time, sometimes I react a little less than graciously**).

I can’t imagine being on my journey in life with anyone better.  Having the loving support of my husband positively touches all parts of my life.  I also believe that if I would have chosen to marry someone else, my life would not be the fairy tale (at least in my opinion) that it is.  Chris wouldn’t be the perfect husband for everyone, and I wouldn’t be the perfect wife.  But I believe we are perfect for each other.

SO…   …What’s your point?

My point is that marrying the right person, someone you love and cherish really does make your life better.  BUT marrying someone just so you can be married is going to be a mistake.  The person you marry is the person you are probably going to spend the majority of your time with.  The decisions you make will affect both of you.   And staying single can be a VERY GOOD decision.  This allows you to be open to a relationship that will nourish you and help you be the best you you can be.  And I think you owe that to yourself.

Why This Most Important Decision isn’t Really a Decision

I needed to marry Chris.  I wanted to be with Chris for as far into the future as I could see.  It wasn’t a decision, or the “logical next step”.  It was something that I knew was meant to be in the deepest truest part of myself.  Having a great partner to enjoy your life with is fantastic.  Having someone on your side during the most exciting parts of life, your lowest parts of life, or just to share a story with is part of what makes my life what it is.

I actually have to say that I never thought I was going to get married.  I was pretty sure I was going to be single forever.  And I was certainly proven wrong.  So if you are dating the person you KNOW isn’t right for you, I beg you not to waste your time or energy on that anymore.  Spend your time on making yourself the best you you can be.  That way, when that person who is meant to be your partner for life comes along, you can be the partner they deserve.  If you are single, don’t worry, I know there is someone, somewhere who is single and will add to your already wonderful life.

Marrying the right person won’t make a crappy life wonderful, but it will make your pretty dang good life, pretty dang great.  However, marrying the wrong person can make your pretty good life absolutely awful.  So just make sure that when you decide to commit your life to someone else, you don’t even have to think about it.  You already know that they are your future.

Thank you.

 

Honey Mustard Lentil Salad

Lentils are super healthy for you.  They have fiber, iron, and other good stuff.  My husband hates most things having to do with Lentils.  Except this.  This salad.  This Lentil Salad has BACON, it has cheddar cheese, and a wonderful homemade Honey Mustard dressing.  AND, it’s super-duper easy.

The best part – the homemade dressing can be used on your green salads. So save the dressing recipe.  In fact, here it is, so you can easily access if for a green salad, if you like:

Make the Dressing:

Gather the following ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar or Sour Kombucha
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Olive OilIMG_0297

Mix all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl or measure glass using a spoon.  Taste it.  If it’s delicious, it’s ready to use.  You may want to use salt and pepper at this point, if you wish.  I generally do not.

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Ingredients for the Lentil Salad (less the dressing):

  • 6 slices of cooked bacon.  If you do this like I showed you in this post, you can have that baking while doing these other steps.
  • 2 cups of dry lentils
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese (chopped or grated)
  • 1 cup of frozen corn or peas (adds a little sweetness)
  • If you want to add some extra healthiness to it, wilt some spinach to throw into the mix.

Make your Lentils:

I choose “Organic French Baby Lentils”

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You can use whatever kind you like.  Measure out about 2 cups of the lentils.

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Pour into a pot, cover with 2 to 3 inches of water and bring to a boil (**TIP** While this is boiling, now would be a perfect time to work on preparing the other ingredients and dressing**), stirring occasionally:

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If during this time your lentils are higher than the water level, please add more water.

After about 20 minutes, remove two or three lentils from the pot, let cool and taste.  If the lentil is a little too toothy, let boil for a few more minutes before testing for doneness again.  If the lentil was done, remove from heat and drain through a sieve:

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You have now made Lentils!! Yay!!!

Preparing the Other Ingredients:

Chop 1/2 an onion and add to the bowl that you will be serving the salad in:

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Chop those six slices of bacon and add to the bowl:

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Either cut about 1 cup of cheddar cheese or use about 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to your bowl.

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Add 1 Cup of frozen corn or peas to the bowl.

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If you decided to wilt some spinach to add to the bowl, go ahead an add.  To wilt spinach simply warm oil on medium heat in a pan, add fresh spinach and watch is wilt.  It’s that easy:

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add those lentils to your large bowl.  Now it’s time to add that awesome honey-mustard dressing you made, and stir so that everything is combined and coated with honey-mustard goodness.

Last step, eat it.

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Baking Bacon – Simple, Easy, Clean

Bacon is a favorite food for many. It seems to have a cult like following.  You can buy bacon themed: Pajama pants, tee-shirts, lip balm, air fresheners, and just about anything you can think of.  I find frying it to be a quite messy and a pain.  It always takes me multiple rounds of frying, including some splatter burns on my hands and arms.  Even though this never deterred me from making bacon, I was excited to see there was another way.

I was over at a friends how for breakfast, and she had the most genius way of making bacon.  She baked it!!!

Here’s how you do it:

Place your bacon on a cookie sheet.  For ease of cleaning you may want to lay some parchment paper down.  I didn’t have any, so I didn’t use any:

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My first instinct is to keep it a single layer, my second instinct is to experiment.  I’ve found that adding a few extra strips of bacon on top, so as to use the whole package is fine.

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Insert into a cold oven and then turn the oven to 400 degrees F.

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It should take about 15- 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon.  Keep an eye on it.  You do NOT have to flip it over at any point.  Just let it bake.

Remove from the oven when it is the crispness you desire, place on paper towels or a rack to drain the grease off.

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Consume.

Once I was exposed to this way of making bacon there was NO going back.  This is so basic and so easy.  There have been so many times grease popped in the pan and scalded my arm while I was frying bacon.   Granted this just hurt for a moment, but now I am not hurting at all!

 

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The Good Life – A Review


Recently, I received a very thoughtful gift, the gift of a book.  The book was two separate works within  The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living.  The first section of the book is entitled The Good Live Project.  In this part of the book, Scott and Helen Nearing decided to move from New York City into rural Vermont during the Great Depression in the 1930s.  They began building a homestead and working the land.  Scott was in his late forties/early fifties when their adventure begins.

Within in the book they describe how and why they:

  • Allotted their time in the most efficient ways
  • Constructed stone buildings
  • Ate a fully vegetarian diet (It seemed most vegan to me)
  • Got the most from their garden
  • Believed in a No-Money, take only what you need economy

This was also their personal story.   This is a couple who lived as city folk and moved out to the country and started an entirely new way of life.  While this is probably the first “back to the land” movement book, I think it is important to point out that large portions of the American population were not “back to the land”, but “never left the land”.  My great-grandfather built his barn and home from wood milled from his land.  He then made a living as a farmer for years afterward.  Although he did not adhere to the strict rules laid down by the Nearings, he lived off the land on the east coast, in the country, a little further South than the places the Nearings called home. And I would bet his political leanings were not aligned with the Nearings, but I do not know. (and I want to avoid any discussion of politics on here, as I hope this blog is useful/informational/entertaining for you no matter how or if you vote)

While this book was inspiring, and helped me to see ways to make my homestead flourish, it also made me a little disillusioned at the idea of homesteading.  The design of their life seem too strict and rigid.  They were so rigid in their work schedule that if someone stopped by to talk while they were working, they would continue on and/or be mildly annoyed.  The person could either stay and help or leave.  While this does lead to very productive days, it would leave my day feeling empty, I suppose.   Furthermore, they criticized the surrounding farmers who would take time out of their work to talk.  The tone of the book seemed to be that either you agree with the Nearings (and I believe it was mostly Scott) or you were a fool.  They were very harsh on the native Vermonters for their ways, their thoughts, their drinking, eating and working habits.

I can understand falling into that “I am doing it right, and you’re silly” train of thought.  I have done a lot of research on the how’s and why’s of my daily life, and therefore I do things certain ways that may be different or require more work than the mainstream’s habits.  When I see folks making different decisions that are easier in the moment, I feel the need to justify to myself (to myself) why the path I chose iss right for me.  The balance of doing this while not judging those folks is something I am practicing and learning.

The book includes details on how the couple built their homes and buildings out of foraged stone.  This was very instructional, and I believe you could use this to help if you are interested in construction of a stone structure.  I am not, so I skipped through much of this.

The Nearings moved from Vermont to Maine when they found the area was becoming a little too built up for their liking.  I admire their courage to start over again at an advanced age. Part Two of the book, Continuing the Good Life, begins with this move.  For me, the couple became more likable in part two.  I’m not sure if it was their advanced age, or maybe they were more settled in their ways, or perhaps I just got more used to their writing style.

In both parts of the book, the Nearings’ diet was discussed.  They ate simply, from the land and they at as much of their diet as fresh as they could.  The way they discussed the plight of DDT, the disease caused by processed flours and sugars, and the importance of a healthy diet, it seemed like it was something out of a modern day “diet visonary” such as David Wolfe .  As far as how well their mostly vegan diet worked, I would have to say pretty darn well.  Scott worked hard around his homestead through his 90s and died when he was 100-years old.  He died by choice after “fasting for a month and a half“, which, to me, means he starved himself to death.

Along with the simple, mostly vegan diet, he and Helen, who lived until the age of 91, fasted one day a week.  He also attributed good health to meaningful work.  I fully agree that living your purpose and making a positive difference in world leads to greater personal health.

This book did expand my gardening knowledge.  Specifically, how to extend the season and create healthy soils using compost.  I have pages ear-marked for easy reference for my gardening needs over the years.

Overall, the book was entertaining and informative.  While I didn’t agree with all of their thoughts or ways of doing things, I absolutely learned and had the opportunity to challenge my current opinions.  It is definitely worth the time to read this.

The Nearings’ left a legacy at their old Maine homestead.  The Good Life Center is still running to this day, 10 years after Helen’s passing and 20 years after Scott’s passing.  They are taking applications for interns in the upcoming season.

Helen wrote two more books I would like to explore: