Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eating Wild

“Eating Wild” is a new blog that introduces readers to the world of wildcrafting. Wildcrafting is the art of “living off the land,” or locating, harvesting and preparing the hundreds of edible flora and fauna available (for free) across North America.
We will show you the range where each item can be found, the best way to locate that item, how to harvest it, its historical uses, the best methods of preparation & storage and the cautions that accompany use of each edible article. Occasionally, we will feature items that are not edible, but quite useful, in other ways, in your home.
This blog is a logical extrapolation of our “Living Lean and Green” blog, and our “Yurt Living” blog. The blog will include links to invaluable information on wildcrafting. The various items featured will be presented, as much as possible, in season. That is, just before the best “harvest date,” we will provide articles relevant to that wildcraft product.
The first blogs will feature the following plants for harvest:
1. Morels. Although we are into the harvest season in some areas already, morels are so popular that we feel we need to act today, instead of waiting until tomorrow.
2. Dandelion greens. These little gems go from delicious when picked early to disgusting if picked late!
3. White willow bark. A great “headache remedy, they are harvested best when the sap is just running
4. Cattail roots. Although harvestable anytime, now that the ice is off the ponds, it is an ideal time to harvest.
5. Alpine strawberry leaves. Great & nutritious tea.
6. Spruce buds. Yech! But a healthy tea awaits.
7. Tansy. A long-standing folk remedy, which can be harvested from August until May.
As you can see from the sample of articles, our approach to wildcrafting is eclectic, with healthy harvests, folk remedies, nutritious drinks, delicious side dishes, and savoury staples. Each week, we will post seven new items (one per day, ideally!). But if you want to know about a specific item, or want us to “jump the queue” by responding to your unique request, we would be more than pleased to do so. Just let us know in the “Comments” section, or email me at

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Head & Heart Conditioning Preparing yourself mentally & emotionally for minimalism

The second step in my 15 Steps to Minimal Living is head & heart conditioning.
This step is one of the most difficult to do, one of the easiest to skip. Only if you have successfully completed Step 1 – Identifying & Inventorying can you complete Step 2 appropriately.
Why are you contemplating the minimalist lifestyle? If the reasons are purely monetary – for example, you already are experiencing financial problems – then like a diet forced on you, your efforts at becoming a minimalist will fail. If, however, your reasons for embracing minimalism focus on a desire to get the most out of each moment of life rather than out of each acquisition and possession, you are pointed in the right direction.
Heart & head conditioning requires that you brace yourself for the downside to lean and green living, while being invigorated by what you will gain by “walking gently.” Since lean living means relinquishing many of the excesses that one acquires throughout life, it is important to identify those items as excess, rather than essential.
That is where heart versus head conditioning comes into play.
Are you willing to give up your vehicle entirely? Probably not. In fact, the auto is a virtual necessity for many of us. If you live outside the reaches of public transportation, for example, that car provides you with the link to your job, family & friends, etc. Even though car pooling, buses, etc. offer options, they may not be realistic or appropriate. When I worked as a business consultant, I kept my auto – a 2000 Toyota Echo – to travel to clients’ places of business. Note that the Echo offered the least ostentatious vehicle option. At the same time, it was eco-friendly, great on gas, and provided the ability to transport almost any goods I needed to move.
Deciding to downsize to the Echo, though, was an illustration of heart versus head conflict. Would I have preferred a fancy, upscale vehicle? Probably. However, giving up on greed has its own intrinsic satisfaction.
In deciding on what you are willing to relinquish, examine the emotional attachments and desires that each object represents. Going lean and green should not be a decision to deny yourself of the joys and pleasures of life. Instead, minimal living simply directs you to give up on non-essentials. There are many instances where what may be non-essential for some people has such an emotional attachment that is becomes vital for another.
Last year, we donated our entertainment centre, our love seat, our extra bedroom furniture, exercise equipment, many of our appliances, and my Toyota Echo to others. They were superfluous.
However, we retained our Wii Fit and television, while dropping our cable coverage. Did we retain a luxury in the Wii station? In my opinion, we demonstrated pure minimalism. The exercise equipment duplicated our fitness regimen needs, our kids have all moved away ( so we did not need the extra furniture), and we are using a minimum of electrical equipment (making the appliances unnecessary). The Wii, indeed, represents “lean” for us!
Heart essentials and head essentials each should be evaluated in your plan to go lean and green. The two are not incongruent or incompatible.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Maximum Minimalism

It is difficult to observe people who live lavishly, with fancy cars, expensive clothes & accessories, luxurious homes and exotic vacations, and then make the decision to live minimally. Yet, it is the very opulence of these excessive lifestyles that should provide you with the impetus to reject those monuments to self-indulgence.
One of the very first steps that I outlined in my 15 Steps to Becoming a Minimalist was the need to identify. That process involves more than the need to identify whether or not you are suited to the minimalist lifestyle. It involves, among other things, identifying what you want out of life, what is important to you, what you will need to give up, what you hope to achieve, what you expect out of this change in direction.
It is commonly assumed that those that seek to acquire things (including money) are seeking to acquire comfort. That may be far-removed from reality. For some, the need to acquire is the need to feel safe from lack or want. For some, it may be that they are looking for social approval and status. For some, it may be that they are uncomfortable with any sort of deprivation. For a few, it may be nothing more than the greed – the need to obtain -- at the expense of others. The reasons are varied and diverse.
Similarly, the reasons for the urge to embrace a minimalist lifestyle are far-ranging.
The most common reason for adopting a minimalist way of life is found in the “fox and the sour grapes” fable. What you cannot reach, the fable implies, you are likely to scorn as something not worth having. Hence, many people (students & youths, for example) reject material possessions, largely because they cannot see the wherewithal to obtain those very examples of “arrival.”
I have met many aspiring “lean & green” disciples who cite the need to be socially responsible as their justification for their new lifestyle. At the same time, a great many seem to want to self-flagellate, punishing themselves for perceived greed. Others subscribe to a political philosophy that requires that they share everything, and aspire for nothing. Still others, in an effort to rationalize indolence, declare that reaching for such mundane goals is beneath them.
Minimalism is nothing of the sort described to this point. It is a choice of living in a specific manner that embraces wealth of a different sort – an opulence that recognizes the value in alternative ways of viewing self-indulgence. As a minimalist of many years, I am convinced that I have far greater wealth from choosing my way of engaging life than I had when I owned a multi-million dollar business, and owned a hoard of physical assets.
I look forward to assisting you in identifying how you, too, can be wealthy by being poor, and how divesting yourself of everything can make you rich. I look forward to helping you living your minimal lifestyle to the maximum!