Freeconomics and Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Man

I just finished reading Mark Boyle’s book The Moneyless Man and found it hugely inspiring. Mark was an economics graduate and businessman who discovered Ghandi. Ghandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world” became the ethos by which he began to live and Mark started a Freeconmic movement, one in which members gave freely to those in need. This movement operates in over 150 countries around the world in town and city communities. The Freeconomic Movement operates on a Pay-It-Forward ethos. As he puts it in his speech (linked below) “For thousands of years we have been looking at life through a lens of “What can I take”. Imagine on a table in front of you there are different lens and we take off our old and put on a new one of “What can I give?”

“Imagine a world where we can give without expectation of receiving anything in return to someone who needs help.”

From an ecological viewpoint Mark discusses the toll consumerism has taken on the planet, the wasteful nature of it. In the UK 1/3 of all food traded through supermarkets etc is wasted, thrown out by either the stores or the consumer – much of this food imported from all around the world just to be dumped. Much of this food is grown by poorer countries who use low paid workers to produce it, the expense of getting it to our shops/homes grows with every step of the journey not only adding to the cost of the product but it takes a toll environmentally…then so much of it is dumped. The same could be said for many of our purchases which end up in landfills sooner or later.

From a humanitarian viewpoint, how much food, warm clothing, furniture etc is dumped when so many have so little and go hungry, not in only third world countries but in our own?

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In late 2008 Mark made a commitment to try living one year without money. He advertised on Freecycle for something he could live in and was given an old caravan, he made a rocket stove to cook on. He found an organic farmer who was willing to let him live in a small area in return for some work. He dug a hole to use as a loo, surrounded it with a makeshift tent he could also use as a camp shower. He also was given a fire and used waste wood to heat his caravan. He used an old bike to get around or walked many miles many days. He grew his own food, foraged and went skip diving. He talks of feasts him and his friends threw for up to 1500 people on waste from supermarkets, donations from many different sources (though I expect his profile in the area possibly helped alot there) He not only survived the in the year but at the end of his time realised how much happier he was, that he was a better person for it and decided to stay. The proceeds from his book are going towards land for a Freeconomy Community to set up their own place and this will not be a closed community but an open one.

Few of us would be willing or feel able to give up money, for those who would like to he shows it’s possible. But I found him inspiring for many reasons …he puts his money (or lack of!) where his mouth is, he fosters generosity rather than greed, he raises awareness of all sorts of ecological and society issues, he is a man who has taken up the “Be the change you wish to see in the world” challenge and run with it expecting nothing in return. His Freeconomy communities run much like Freecycle, people can advertise for stuff they need whether it be a lift somewhere, a couch to sleep on, tools, food…whatever. People can trade good for services or skills or just give freely. I am seriously considering starting one up here in our town but it does need thinking about. There will always be the takers who use something like this the wrong way, there is always potential for not so nice people in society to take advantage but… there are alot of good reasons to do this too. Many years ago I belonged to a Green Dollar Community where people traded skills and items with others expecting they in turn will recive what they need from others. I became very frustrated by doing alot of work for others who weren’t prepared to do their bit in return. This is different, there is no expectation here that you will receive anything in return, only that those you give to may one day pay-it-forward. People can get together to hold book or clothing swaps, family days etc. As an introvert I find this idea a bit scary 🙂 as a person who does care about the effect poverty has on people and communities I think it’s a brilliant idea. Anyway….bears some consideration.

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 To watch Mark Boyle’s talk on Ted X see here It runs for 15 minutes. Or an article he did for The Huffington Post here

The Sydney Morning Herald did an article on the rise of this in Australia while people are finding things tough and it appears to be successful and well used.

 

Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating from our section”. This has been a journey of learning self reliance….one thing leads to another and formally frugal habits have been replaced by simple living, making our own cleaning mixtures, less chemical exposure, an appreciation for nature and our environment, searching for more free foods, the trading and sharing of our excesses and helping others.last summer

So, here where we are now (actually taken last summer).

We are fortunate that Roger works on a farm and can get meat – for those of you who can’t work in farming though it’s all relative, he earns a low wage, the meat is counted in with it. I don’t eat alot of meat and basically no-one needs to eat alot of it. Much of our diet can be grown at home with eggs, vegetable, fruits and berries….nuts if you are lucky enough to have a large section. Our diet comes from a garden that’s probably 1/8 acre. This is why we do it, this was my shopping last week for two people.

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I already had 2 bottles of milk in the fridge bought the week before on special. The avocados were cheap so I got 10. The spices and seals were for preserving. The wee tins of fish are for me. We can’t grow bananas. Roger prefers this brand of softened butter opposed to the butter/olive oil blend I make sometimes. Dates, raisins and raw peanuts are healthy additions to our diet. Basics like sugar, flour, vinegar etc are bought in bulk. The bread is Rogers favourite. Few of these things are necessities, but desires. I also had cheese already, and a little coffee I bought up on special. Just about everything I buy is bought in bigger quantities when on special eg the avocados here. I also don’t show the pet food here.

Seeds and buckwheat are bought from the bulk store and I will go every week or two and stock up on stuff like this…coconut, brown rice, dried beans, baking soda etc.

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This is basically our shopping for the week…things like toilet paper and soap are purchased in bulk when cheap. We spend on average around $40 – $60 per week on our food and some weeks all we buy is milk. A few years ago our Health Dept put our a brochure for shopping on a low income and it was estimated $70 per person is the least a person could live on foodwise in NZ and this would be for a very basic diet, nowhere near as healthy as we eat.

Garden produce is either frozen, pickled, bottled or made into sauces, jams, chutneys…or boozy drinks! An old disused laundry has been crudely converted into a store room, a would be larder…(note the earthquake proof shelving as last year alot of bottles and jars just slid off shelves)

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I still have a couple of months preserving to go then the majority of our food is stored for the remainder of the year. In fact, we could survive from our food stores and garden etc until next summer (9 months) if need be…and still be healthy.

I sometimes also make white bread for Roger and freeze some, three loaves can be made for $1.80.Image

Every few weeks I am tempted to buy something like this – a deli pack the supermarket sells cheap. This all cost $7.95 and their are foods we don’t get…salami, ham, quiches so I don’t have to cook tea a couple of nights. All of this can be frozen. Served with salad they all make a good meal for those nights Wendy doesn’t  be bothered  cooking / making her own quiche or Roger would just like toasted sandwiches for a change.

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 Again these are just desires.

Truly we could survive from our garden if need be. We preserve summer fruits and vegetables to eat through winter. We preserve nice things to eat because we can, because they add variety, nutrition, a taste of summer through the cold months. If we wanted we could just freeze everything but we make our preserves because we appreciate the flavours on what could otherwise be quite a limited winter diet.

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 Sharing food with others means they share in return. These pears and oranges came from friend, lemons we pick from an unowned tree down the street. These apples came from a wild tree by the farm.Image

At present I am doing a juice, salad and soup detox so am living on vegetables from the garden, along with dried beans/legumes and feeling good for it on the third week. I am not starving to death and am surviving well 🙂

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Eggs supply alot of nutrition and with eggs and vegetables you always have a meal.

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We also just got bees to get our own honey….this lasts forever, is a healthier alternative to sugar and the bees will help pollinate the fruit etc.

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To put food, our shopping habits and what we really need to survive into perspective, I like this. The healthiest and happiest looking people I think are those from Mali who have (by comparison to western diets) a very basic diet sitting in front of them.

What people eat in different countries around the world

We grow herbs in the garden too, these can be used fresh, dried, used for skincare or remedies. I am still learning about the use of herbs and do not get enough time to really get into it but herbalism really interests me, I have a whole lot of learning to do in this area!

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Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

Rose and Calendula Hand Cream

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I recently bought a book on foraging in NZ and what wild weeds, herbs, fruits etc can be used and the making of medicines etc. This I found at a secondhand book store for $2.50, a quick flick through tells me I will be reading this avidly over autumn and winter to learn from. Besides personal interest in this sort of thing I have to say this – I am not convinced the economy will pick up any time soon, things could get alot harsher for everyone, us included. We believe it is our responsibility to be able to fend for ourselves if need be. Basic necessities in life are food, warmth and shelter…you have to add water. Many are living now on social security and benefits because of the high unemployment rates and existing poverty by the new working poor, so many in fact it is not sustainable.

Another depression or war would force so many to find food where they can. W want to learn how to survive if the need be. Sounds terribly pessimistic but I’d rather be knowledgeable than naive or ignorant if the “shit should ever hit the fan”.

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This month I have been doing an e-course I won through another blogger, Lois, at Living Simply Free . The course has been really interesting and was offered through Handcrafted Travellers. This young couple are very inspiring and have a great ethos, that of living off the land. I am ashamed to say I have not finished the reading but have it all stored to do so, I have just simply been too busy but I feast off their site!

In this course we have learned about embracing simplicity, experiencing quality v quantity, resistance and learning to say “No”, chemical free cleaning, getting rid of plastics, herbal beauty, handcrafted and natural clothing, learning new skills, earthing, the importance of Vit D, limiting technology for your health and wellbeing…in general self reliance and living in harmony with nature. They have a beautiful site and have much of interest to say, they also run many courses.

Another blogger I follow and whose post I recommend here is Rohan from Whole Larder Love. Read here how he jackhammered through concrete slabs to start his garden and honestly, this guy has a lovely blog…he lives off the land, fishes, hunts, runs classes and sells his vegetables. Also very inspiring.

We also practice self reliance in other areas too, which will be the subject of another post to come, this is already too long!

And so, after 15 – 18 months, this is where we are at 🙂 I will stress here, we are not feeling we deprive ourselves of anything. If we want it we will buy it, we enjoy the food we eat, I cook really nice meals and we like the fact it costs us so  little.

Simplicity in the Making; Guest post and giveaway

I wanted to share this guest post at Simply Free. Both this blog and the blog of her guest Handcrafted Travellers are just wonderful. This bright young couple share a lovely life of simple living that is just so right. I am excited to say I just won their giveaway, an e-course in Everyday Simplicity. Am very excited and heartfelt thanks to Roland, Cheryl and Lois for making it possible. Please do check out their site, it’s simply hours of very gentle reading that will reasonate with many of my readers.

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More about The Urban Homestead, “The Path to freedom”

This family shows how, in a family home back yard, they earn an income, eat far better than most, and live sustainably on little cost.

Over 6,000 pounds of food per year, on 1/10 acre located just 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. The Dervaes family grows over 400 species of plants, 4,300 pounds of vegetable food, 900 chicken and 1,000 duck eggs, 25 lbs of honey, plus seasonal fruits throughout the year.

From 1/10th of an acre, four people manage to get over 90% of their daily food and the family reports earnings of $20,000 per year (AFTER they eat from what is produced). This is done without the use of the expensive & destructive synthetic chemicals associated with industrial mono-cropping, while simultaneously improving the fertility and overall condition of the land being used to grow this food on. Scaled up to an acre, that would equal $200,000 per year!

http://tv.greenmedinfo.com/urban-homestead-marvel-6000-lbs-of-organic-food-on-110th-acre/

Into my third week of “retirement”……all set for winter!

I am loving not working and am managing to keep VERY busy lol. There’s so much to do, however the preserving for the winter months has slowed down – there is very little left in the garden and once the fiejoas stop I think I’ll be done. Roger keeps saying he’ll bring home pears and quinces but I haven’t seen them yet.

He has a week off work coming up and is hoping to make the glasshouse he wants, out of recycled windows he’s been collecting for a long time. We need to get more seaweed from the beach to lay over the wintering garden. It’s just too cold here to grow much of anything in winter so the raised garden out in the front yard, in full sunlight, is all we’ll be using.

My kitchen is becoming quieter and more relaxed. We’re hoping we have managed to grow and store enough to see us through. This is our first year of doing this on quite this scale so it will be a learning curve for us.

In the freezer there is a whole lot of: carrots, berries, beans, leeks, peppers, field mushrooms sauteed in oil and butter, beetroot, zucchini, tomatoes (chopped, pureed and concentrated) apple sauce, soups, around 9 different herbs for cooking and teas (in ice cubes) frozen kale and spinach in cubes for juices which I like, and fruit juices. The freezer is bursting…really hoping no power cuts!! This does make me me aware if we were doing it for survival means this would not do, freezing has been the easiest way to store this year with me working and also not really knowing my way around dehydrating properly but next year things will be done alot differently.

Bottled are: lots of different chutneys and sauces, pickled onions, spiced beetroot, pickles, heaps of fruit and tomato products.

Dried are: figs, feijoa, apple, mushrooms, leeks, sundried tomatoes in oil, beans, masses of herbs and leaves for cooking and teas, onions and garlic.

Stored are pumpkins, potatoes, walnuts, onions and garlic.

In the garden there will still be plenty of winter growing greens….brussell sprouts, silverbeet, broccoli, leeks, broad beans etc.

And we have wine and cider vinegar doing their thing without much assistance at present, am really hoping they both work out ok!

Most of our grocery money is going on just the staples – milk, flour, decent bread, coffee, sugar (been buying heaps for preserving) hard cheese, oats, brown  rice….and alot of dog food! We have 3 dogs here at present – Bob, Syd and my son’s dog as he is away for 5 weeks. We are spending more on them than ourselves 🙂 I also buy dates, raisins, peanuts and seeds because they are nutritious and help with a bit of variety in our diet (but using alot more sparingly). I wanted to dry some grapes but all we had access to this year were seeded ones. We have one seedless variety in the garden but a young vine with little on this year. I do baking when we feel like something sweet and make puddings. There are some things I am missing though – nice cheese for one! I absolutely refuse to pay those prices now but have heard of a local couple who sell fresh milk at $2 a litre so I will try making my own very soon, and yogurt (really missing that). I also will do more bread making as I get more time, I want to learn how to make decent pumpernickel 🙂 And good crackers we need, mine never turn out quite good enough – the dogs usually get them lol.

We have heaps of firewood, this is important!

And, as mentioned in the past I want to try soap making…there will certainly be no lack of things to do over the winter months to keep me occupied. I have one paper left to do for my Dip. Psychology, just tossing up whether to do this over winter or not., can I be bothered right now!? Hubby is interested in making outdoor rustic furniture to sell. He has access to heaps of old  fencing and gates that will get burned otherwise (sooner or later) and also manuka (tea tree) He has a workshop which is presently so messy he can’t even get in it! because the past 6 months has been taken up with gardening, but he is planning big things for it over winter. And I have been making and selling homemade  herbal tobacco, which I just found out is actually ILLEGAL here. Ooops! How fortunate I am to have grown children who can steer me in the right directions in life!!! But, there are ways and means of making a bit more money from home, we just need to think out of our original square a little. I just  love this: 🙂

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Another poster this week was talking about time, how not living by the clock has enriched her life. I am also finding the same thing. From someone who has just finished a community job of many daily appointments, rushing here there and everywhere – then never having enough time at home to get things done, I am just feeling absolutely perfect pottering through the day without even looking at the clock. I am achieving everything I need to, and more, without feeling harried or rushed, not having to answer to anyone or be anywhere. I certainly can feel my high blood pressure has just calmed right back down to normal, I am so much more relaxed….it’s just got to be so much better for you!

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The very humble Vegetable Soup….and finally, field mushrooms!

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Last night we were going to be busy squishing a good deal of grapes so I just put soup on for tea. Hubby is not so keen on soups but will eat them, I love them….there’s something soothing about chopping all those vegetables into a large pot simmering into very nourishing comfort food….and it’s a virtually free meal when you have a garden.

Already in the pot was this amount of pumpkin again and a bag of grated, frozen zucchini. The stock was made the day before from a leg roast bone, cooled overnight, the fat removed and any meat chopped up and returned to pan. In the jars are dried leeks and lentils, I just added salt, pepper and herbs to this, simmered about 4 hours and adjusted seasonings. In most cases I find a bland soup just comes from not enough salt or it hasn’t thickened well enough from cooking down. Pumpkin and potato give the soup a thicker more substantial texture. I use what is available, at other times celery, parsnip, swedes etc will go in.

Years ago when my kids were small I kept a large container in the freezer for vegetable water, gravies and leftovers for soup and just added what was missing at cooking time (or odd veges wrinkling in the fridge!) Couldn’t be called flash food, but good, frugal, nourishing with a good bread.

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A pot of soup can last up to a week on the stove being reheated each day and new things added. I remember an elderly woman telling me years ago her mother kept the same pot going all winter. !! I have frozen 2/3 of this for easy meals in the future.

Hubby found this perfect crop of large mushrooms in a paddock at work 🙂 Other years I have sauteed any extra mushrooms in better and oil and frozen with good outcome, today I  dried this lot. A friend of ours who is a chef told us at his restaurant they order in dried mushrooms and just soak in water as needed….Image