Simple Living Archive


Farm the Woods: Grow Food and Medicinals in Forests

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

In the eyes of many people, the practices of forestry and farming are mutually exclusive, because in the modern world, agriculture involves open fields, straight rows, and machinery to grow crops, while forests are reserved primarily for timber and firewood harvesting. In fact, history indicates that much of humanity lived and sustained itself from so-called “forest farming,” and only recently has the forest been traded for the field.

In Farming the Woods, authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario, but a complementary one; forest farms can be most productive in places where the plow is not: on steep slopes and in shallow soils. Forest farming is an invaluable practice to integrate into any farm or homestead, especially as the need for unique value-added products and supplemental income becomes increasingly important for farmers.

“That Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel believe people should be empowered in pursuits of integrated, multifunctional forest management is clear. As a result, the book is better positioned to positively impact forest owners, farmers, policy makers, and general readers alike,” writes John Munsell in the book’s foreword.

At your fingertips is a useful and inspirational forest farming guide,” Munsell adds.

Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests invites readers to view agriculture with a remarkably new perspective: that a healthy forest can be maintained while growing a wide range of food, medicinal, and other nontimber products. To get a sense of what useful information and resources the book offers, read a sample chapter — Food from the Forest: Fruits, Nuts, and More — below.

It’s common knowledge that many of the daily indulgences we take for granted, such as coffee, chocolate, and a variety of tropical fruits, all originate in forest ecosystems. But few know that such abundance is also available in the cool temperate forests of North America. Farming the Woods covers in detail how to cultivate, harvest, and market high-value forest crops such as American ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, ramps (wild leeks), maple syrup, fruit and nut trees, ornamentals, and more. Readers are also provided comprehensive information on:

• historical perspectives of forest farming;

• mimicking the forest in a changing climate;

• cultivation of medicinal crops;

• cultivation of food crops;

• creating a forest nursery;

• harvesting and utilizing wood products;

• the role of animals in the forest farm; and,

• how to design and manage your forest farm once it’s established.

In addition, Farming the Woods includes profiles of forest farmers from around the country who are practicing many of the techniques detailed in the book.

“Forest farmers profiled in this book offer a vision for how more people can live—with and in the forest rather than outside it, as a foreigner who only visits from time to time. Human civilization is at a time when the decisions we need to make are unlike those any generation has had to make before,” write Mudge and Gabriel in the introduction. “With increasing inequality, the collapse of ecosystems around the world, and the uncertain effects of climate change, there is not a better time to consider farming the woods.”

Farming the Woods is now on sale for 35% off until September 24.

Farming the Woods – Sample from Chapter 4: Food from the Forest by Chelsea Green Publishing

Back to Basics with Fermentation

Monday, September 15th, 2014

For thousands of years, people have been using fermentation as a nourishing way to eat and preserve a variety of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, grains, beans, meats, and more. Only in the last century has our culture distanced itself from this traditional approach to nutrition and adopted an industrialized food system complete with highly processed and genetically modified foods.

This month, we are celebrating Chelsea Green authors that are committed to bringing the nutrient-dense, traditional foods and preparation methods of our past back into the mainstream.

The fermentation revivalist himself, Sandor Katz, deserves to be recognized as one such revolutionary. Katz is the author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentationa New York Times Bestseller and the definitive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation.

His books have inspired a new generation of home fermenters—even author Michael Pollan caught the bug. “Sandor Katz writes about the transformative power of fermentation with such infectious enthusiasm that he makes you want to try things just to see what happens,” writes Pollan in his foreword to The Art of Fermentation.

With Katz’s simple, 4-step method to fermenting vegetables, attempting a homemade sauerkraut has never been easier. All it takes is Chop, Salt, Pack, and Wait. Check out the excerpt below for details.

And, here are some other books featured in our series on nourishing foods…
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet by certified holistic health counselor Hilary Boynton and whole-foods advocate Mary G. Brackett – You’ll find additional info on this restorative diet and a sampling of appealing, family-friendly recipes here.

Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by chef and food activist Jessica Prentice – With recipes that display the richly satisfying flavors of foods tied to the ancient rhythm of the seasons, this book will resonate with anyone interested in traditional food philosophies like the Paleo diet, the Weston A. Price approach to nutrition, and, of course, fermentation.

Fermented Vegetables: The Basics

(The following excerpt from The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz has been adapted for the web)

The English language does not have its own word for fermented vegetables. It would not be inaccurate to describe fermented vegetables as “pickled,” but pickling covers much ground beyond fermentation.

Pickles are anything preserved by acidity. Most contemporary pickles are not fermented at all; instead they rely upon highly acidic vinegar (a product of fermentation), usually heated in order to sterilize vegetables, preserving them by destroying rather than cultivating microorganisms. “For pickles, fermentation was the primary means of preservation until the 1940s, when direct acidification and pasteurization of cucumber pickles was introduced,” writes Fred Breidt of the USDA.

My vegetable ferments are usually concoctions that do not fit any homogeneous traditional ideal of either German sauerkraut or Korean kimchi. But of course, everything I’ve learned about sauerkraut and kimchi reveal that neither of them constitutes a homogeneous tradition. They are highly varied, from regional specialties to family secrets. Nonetheless, certain techniques underlie both (and many other related) traditions, and my practice is a rather free-form application of these basic techniques rather than an attempt to reproduce any particular notion of authenticity.

In a nutshell, the steps I typically follow when I ferment vegetables are:

1. Chop or grate vegetables.

2. Lightly salt the chopped veggies (add more as necessary to taste), and pound or squeeze until moist; alternatively, soak the veggies in a brine solution for a few hours.

3. Pack the vegetables into a jar or other vessel, tightly, so that they are forced below the liquid. Add water, if necessary.

4. Wait, taste frequently, and enjoy!

Of course there is more information and nuance, but really, “Chop, Salt, Pack, Wait” is what most of it amounts to.

Photo: Sandor Katz illustration by Michael Tonn
Photo: Shredded vegetables in jar by Devitree

Take it Slow: 15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Have you ever wanted to slow down, let life’s winds wobble you, and devote yourself to the act of anticipation rather than immediacy? Simple. Learn how to ride a unicycle. Or, if that’s not your speed you could follow a few of author Mark Schimmoeller’s thoughtful, guiding principles.

Even for those of us who have never experienced the peculiar pleasure of seeing the world from atop a unicycle, Schimmoeller’s lessons are relatable and strike a deeply human chord. Take a read through his book, Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America, and you’ll see what we mean.

His memoir is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness.

Peppered throughout the book are what Schimmoeller considers his “guiding principles”—moments of often humorous, pithy advice on how unicycling is inherently connected with the nature of slowness and the art of getting there, no matter where “there” exists. Fifteen of these principles from Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America are listed below.

In Schimmoeller’s characteristically unassuming way, these best practices appear to be for fellow unicyclists, but truthfully he is reminding us that it isn’t the means of transportation that matters.

These ruminations on the importance of mindfulness end up speaking to each of us, if not as literal unicyclists, then as travelers traversing often rocky terrain without stopping to enjoy the view.

Could you benefit from taking a moment to slow down to a unicyclist’s pace? How many of the following guiding principles can you relate to? Share your favorite on Facebook or Twitter today using #slowspoke.

15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

(adapted from Slowspoke: A Unicyclists Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller)

  1. Relax the emphasis on arrival.
  2. In squandering time you demonstrate its availability.
  3. Unicyclists must become devotees of anticipation.
  4. If you find yourself looking up at the sky instead of at the terrain in front of your wheel, it’s likely you have fallen.
  5. Don’t go on a straight road unless you can curb your desire to get someplace.
  6. Adventure begins only from a feeling of security.
  7. Motion without consideration of beginnings and endings can shelter a unicyclist from time and speed and progress.
  8. The art of unicycling is knowing, in part, when to give in to desire.
  9. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other if a unicyclist takes a break.
  10. The act of falling partway plus corrections equals movement.
  11. The simple act of reducing your velocity…could eliminate a significant number of sharp turns in the world.
  12. It’s conceivable that someone could study wobbliness long enough to discover a corollary of strength.
  13. When it comes to attracting the opposite sex, don’t compete with bicyclists.
  14. There are limits, too, to slowness on a unicycle…The pace should inch just ahead of sorrow.
  15. A unicycle is who you are. For whatever reason, you are not any other form of transportation. You are a unicycle. Please love yourself.

Photo: Roger Cornfoot, Wikimedia Commons

New Inspiring Books from our Publishing Partners

Friday, August 29th, 2014

From learning how to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives to building a low-impact roundhouse, we’re bringing a handful of new books to US readers for the first time.

At Chelsea Green Publishing, we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books on sustainable living to a wider readership in the United States. Below is the latest selection of books available from one of our strongest publishing partners, Permanent Publications. They publish books that encourage people to live more healthy and resilient lives, as well as the internationally recognized magazine Permaculture: Practical Solutions for Self-Reliance which is read in 77 countries.

New Books from Permanent Publications:

Sacred Earth Celebrations explores the eight Celtic festivals, how they were celebrated and understood in the past, the underlying changing energy of the Earth, and the ways we may use this energy to create meaningful celebrations for today to deepen our connection to the Earth and our fellow human beings. It is an uplifting and inspiring source book for anyone seeking to celebrate and honor the changing rhythms and seasons of the Earth and her cycles.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse is a captivating story of one of the UK’s most unique homes. Now in its third edition, Author Tony Wrench shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this affordable low-impact home. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. Complete with color photographs of life in and around the dwelling, this is both an engaging story and a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living.

The Unselfish Spirit is an essential twenty-first-century guide to unlocking the secrets of how we as a race can collectively grow our consciousness to solve the complex web of challenges that threaten life on Earth. Author Mick Collins draws inspiration from such diverse fields as cosmology, new biology, and quantum physics, along with insights from depth psychology, occupational science, and mysticism. More than just a learned exploration about psycho-spiritual transformation, this book is a pathway to evolving entirely new ways of living creatively and harmoniously as a species.

7 Ways to Think Differently explores ways to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives, helping us to make incremental, achievable changes. As well as addressing our internal landscapes, author Looby Macnamara explains how individuals and communities can work together to achieve positive change. This book is for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. It offers potent medicine for a world full of challenges. (this book is available September 24, 2014)

One Man, One Wheel, and the Open Road

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness. Award-winning author Janisse Ray (The Seed Underground) identifies with this pace.

“Schimmoeller’s narrative—of his slow and deliberate journey across the country, of his homesteading off-the-grid life in rural Kentucky, and of his battle to save old-growth forests from the developer’s ax—demonstrates that one’s worth is not defined by how much can be accomplished in five minutes, days, or even years, but by what is done with that time,” writes Ray in her foreword to Slowspoke.

She goes on to impress how important a book like this is for our throw-away society. “I really love Slowspoke. It has made me happier than any book in a long time, because it’s the kind of thinking that humankind needs right now, in that it asks that we claim what we value—what we believe in, what we call precious—and divine how to preserve it.” Read Ray’s full foreword, along with all of chapter 2, in the excerpt below.

Author Bill McKibben echoes Ray’s sentiment, “This is just the kind of epic we need right now—humble, sweet, and very deep indeed. As good a travel story—within and without—as you’ll read anytime soon!”

Schimmoeller’s writing style engages you right from the beginning. You feel an intimate connection with him as he guides you seemlessly through his past, present, and even subconscious recollections. “There are books like this that are so nice that, like Holden Caufield, you want to call up the author and tell him (or her) what a great job he (or she) has done,” writes a reviewer from RALPH Mag (The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities).

“This is not only the tale of a man on a unicycle, one who has turned his back on freeways and power plants and supermarkets and television. More, it’s a man who has honed a fine edge to what he has learned: what works, what doesn’t work, what you need, what you don’t need in life; details that end up making Slowspoke a classic.”

Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?

These are all logical questions you might find yourself contemplating when settling in to read Slowspoke. However, as Schimmoeller introduces you to his slow pace and draws you in to his simple world, answers are revealed.

“My parents gave me a unicycle for an Easter present when I was twelve,” Schimmoeller writes. “About the time my classmates began focusing on four wheels, I became obsessed with one. Unicyclists, it occurred to me, experience arrival less often than others. They must become devotees of anticipation. Rushing, I learned under the tutelage of my unicycle—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall. Instead, after school and on the weekends, my task was to dwell in inefficiency, to wrinkle speed, to arrive somewhere only after much ambling about.”

Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who described it as a, “profoundly simple, funny, and sincere memoir.”

Anyone who has gone back to the land or wondered if they could, who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love, who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss, will find a voice in Slowspoke.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is on sale for 35% off until August 7th.

Slowspoke: Foreword and Ch 2

Build a Wood-Fired Oven in Your Backyard

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Ever dreamed of building a wood-fired oven and baking crispy pizzas, flatbreads, pastries, or even braising meats in your own backyard? Dream no longer, as you’re sure to find inspiration in Richard Miscovich’s book, From the Wood-Fired Oven: New and Traditional Techniques for Cooking and Baking with Fire.

Miscovich, a bread expert and instructor, offers a wide range of useful recipes for home and artisan bakers as well as oven designs, live-fire roasting techniques, and methods that maximize the oven’s complete heat cycle, from the initial firing to its final cooling. In the excerpt below you’ll find a few general masonry design recommendations to get you thinking about how to turn your dream wood-fired oven into a reality.

For an in-depth bread baking tutorial from Miscovich, check out his online class, Handmade Sourdough: From Starter to Baked Loaf, at Craftsy.com.

General Masonry Oven Design Tips by Chelsea Green Publishing

Living the Simple Life: William Coperthwaite

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Late last year architect, maker, visionary, homesteader, and Chelsea Green author William Coperthwaite died in a car accident just miles from his Machiasport home in Maine.

The entire Chelsea Green family was saddened by his death, and perhaps none moreso than Peter Forbes who had been inspired by Coperthwaite’s work and contributed the foreword and photographs to Coperthwaite’s award-winning book A Handmade Life.

Friends have set up a remembrance page honoring Coperthwaite’s life and inspiring work, which includes this moving passage from Forbes after he and his wife Helen Whybrow returned from burying Coperthwaite.

“My wife, Helen, and I got back from Dickinson’s Reach late last night after a very powerful and important three days. On Saturday, a group of us dug a six-foot-deep grave at the spot where Bill wanted to be buried. Another group made his casket and yet another group planned how to get his body from the mortuary back to his home. Bill wanted his body left however he died, untouched by doctors or undertakers. On Saturday morning, which was cold and stormy, six of us paddled out in two of Bill’s canoes across Little Kennebec Bay to Duck Cove where we were met by a hearse. We took his body out of the black plastic bag, wrapped him in his favorite blanket, and placed him gently into his pine box. We lashed the canoes together with four posts and tied the casket to the posts creating a catamaran to bring him home. The return was calm except for when we made the turn into his bay when a great wind picked up and blew us all the way into Mill Pond. We were met there by about 30 others who carried Bill in silence up from the beach past each one of his yurts. We paused at the most recent one as this was the place where Bill expected to die. We then brought him to his grave site, had an hour of reminiscences, and then buried him. And now we’re home trying to figure out what life means.”

Coperthwaite

Coperthwaite “embodied a philosophy that he called ‘democratic living’ which was about enabling every human being to have agency and control over their lives in order to create together a better community,” noted Forbes after Coperthwaite’s death. “The central question of Mr. Coperthwaite’s life and experiment has been ‘How can I live according to what I believe?’”

Over the years, thousands of people made the 1.5 mile walk to see his homestead, to be inspired and to learn from his approach to simple living by working alongside him [See the project below, "How to Make Your Own Democratic Chair"]. Intentionally avoiding electricity from the grid, plumbing and motors, he showed that it was possible to live a simple life that is good for themselves and the planet.

Born in Aroostook County Maine, Coperthwaite received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College and after graduation he turned down another scholarship to Annapolis Naval Academy to claim conscientious objector status in the Korean War. Bill did alternative service with the American Friend Service Committee where he connected with the teachings of American pacifism. Bill would become close friends with Richard Gregg, a central figure in that movement. Though they had 50 years difference in age, Coperthwaite and Gregg found a strong bond and Gregg introduced Coperthwaite to the work of Mahatma Gandhi and to Helen and Scott Nearing, legendary social radicals who had pioneered their own experiment in self-reliant living in Vermont and later in Maine. The influence of pacifism, nonviolence and simple living would lead Coperthwaite far out in to the world to learn from other ways of living, particularly handcraft traditions.

As Forbes noted, “Bill will be remembered by his friends for his commitment to his principles, his deep love of life and people, and his great intellect, humility and humor. Our nation has lost one of the links in the chain of great people working quietly with all their unique powers to foster a better world.”

Peace.


 

Project: Make Your Own Democratic Chair

The following project is from A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity by Wm. S. Coperthwaite.

Is there such a thing as democratic furniture? If so, what would a democratic chair look like?

Most of the fine chairs we see today, if handmade, take nearly as much skill as boat building and, if made with power tools, require much investment in equipment and acquiring the skills needed. I would like to see what those who are reading this might come up with for ideas for a handmade chair that is light, comfortable, strong, beautiful, simple to make from easily found materials. (All we seek is perfection.)

Utopian? Or impossible, to create an egalitarian chair? Not at all. As a society we have simply not yet focused on this problem. When we do, there will be some elegant chairs as a result (or boats . . . or houses . . . or wheelbarrows . . . (not necessarily in combination—although, come to think of it, there have been some very comfortable wheelbarrows, some very fine houseboats, and several wheelbarrow boats. . . .)

My suggestion for the most democratic chair follows. This is not provided to represent an ideal but in hopes of stimulating even better designs from you, the readers.

To Make the Democratic Chair:

    1. Saw and whittle out the four pieces shown in diagram, using white pine 7/8-inch thick.


(Click for larger version.)

  1. Bevel the front edges of the two base pieces to meet at the angle shown, then nail together.
  2. Fit seat in place, and screw to the base with four screws.
  3. Place the back piece in the notches in the base, and screw to the base and the seat.

Got Pie?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Thanksgiving is just a day away and your pie-loving friends here at Chelsea Green thought we’d share with you one of our favorite fruit pie recipes.

The following apple pie recipe was adapted from Michael Phillips’ book The Apple Grower by the foodies over at The Washington Post and is named for Michael’s farm in northern New Hampshire. Make sure not to miss Michael’s newest book — The Holistic Orchard.

Michael recommends this pie for Thanksgiving, or other special occasions. In Vermont, we’re still picking over the last of the fall’s apple harvest in our coops so we have some fruit still worthy of being turned into pie.

Pay close attention to this recipe as it calls for cider jelly, which is a separate process that may require more time than your normal pie recipe. But, it’s well worth the extra work.

Lost Nation Cider Pie

This might be the sleeper among your holiday desserts. Lost Nation is a rural enclave in northernmost New Hampshire, near the Canadian border. Resident farmers Michael and Nancy Phillips hold an annual party at which cider from their apple orchards, and this pie, are served.

You’ll need enough pie dough, either homemade or store-bought, for a double-crust pie. Serve topped with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

MAKE AHEAD: The recipe calls for making cider jelly, which is done by boiling fresh apple cider to the jellying stage. The jelly may be made up to 5 days in advance, then covered and refrigerated. Alternatively, prepared cider jelly may be used.

If you’d like to make more than you need for this recipe, a gallon of fresh apple cider will yield about 2 cups of cider jelly. Store in sterilized canning jars.

Makes one 9-inch pie (8 servings)

Ingredients:

For the cider jelly

1/2 gallon fresh apple cider (see headnote; may substitute 1 cup store-bought cider jelly)
For the pie

homemade or store-bought pastry for a two-crust 9-inch pie
2 medium apples, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith, peeled, cored, cut in half, then cut into very thin slices
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Directions:

For the cider jelly: Pour the cider into a medium heavy, nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, which should come up to 220 degrees (the jellying stage). Boil until the cider has reduced to almost 1 cup, adjusting the heat and stirring as needed to avoid scorching. This can take from 75 to 90 minutes.

When the cider has reduced and thickened, remove it from the heat. Transfer to a heatproof container and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the pie: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use the homemade or store-bought crust to line a 9-inch pie plate, folding under and pinching the edges to form a tidy rim. Arrange the apple slices on the surface of the bottom pie crust dough in flat layers. Have the top round of pie dough ready.

Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the cider jelly and just-boiled water; mix well.

Whisk together the egg and melted butter in a liquid measuring cup, then add the mixture to the sugar-cider jelly mixture, stirring to combine. Pour the mixture carefully over the apples in the pie plate. Place the top crust on the pie; crimp the edges around the rim and use a knife to make several small cuts in the top (to allow steam to escape). Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips); bake for 40 minutes or until the top crust is golden.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Low-Impact DIY Solutions From Our Publishing Partners

Monday, August 19th, 2013

At Chelsea Green, our mission is to publish books designed to help people live more sustainable, self-sufficient, and ecologically conscious lives. Along with the books that we bring into print, we also partner with publishers and writers around the world and distribute their books throughout the United States.

A new addition to our catalog comes from Green Man Publishing. Author Frank Tozer self-publishes books on plants and their uses. With an abundance of new information on even more crops, The New Vegetable Growers Handbook is the most comprehensive manual on vegetable gardening available. This updated version, like the original, covers the what, when and why of growing common and unique crops, firsthand from Tozer’s gardening expertise.

We are also especially proud to partner with Permanent Publications, a forward thinking publisher in the UK. Like Chelsea Green, Permanent Publications produces innovative books and DVDs, and publishes the influential Permaculture magazine.

Below are the newest additions to our catalog from Permanent Publications.

Looking to eliminate debt and maximize freedom? Compact Living offers design solutions for minimalists, downsizers and small spaces. Embrace what you have, optimize your space and free yourself of clutter with Michael Guerra’s latest book.

After finding himself dissatisfied with conventional life and traveling Europe, Michel Daniek has incorporated solar energy into his daily life. His second edition of Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power will guide you through a sustainable, low-impact, low-cost approach to energy for any home – traditional or off the grid.

With unique recipes, projects and foraging tips for every season, Glennie Kindred reconnects us to the natural world. Letting in the Wild Edges encourages openness to the world around us, by incorporating simplicities of nature into our everyday lives.

The Moneyless Manifesto teaches us how to live more with less. After three years of living without money, Moneyless Man Mark Boyle breaks down his philosophy and experience of breaking free from the constraints of our modern financial system and living a truly sustainable life.

Kemp has become an expert on growing food in small spaces by feeding herself from her tiny balcony garden. With low-impact and high-subsistence standards, Permaculture in Pots provides the power and know-how to grow your own food even in the smallest of spaces.

The updated and revised edition of The Woodland Way is an alternative approach to healthy and diverse woodland management. Ben Law is creating a woodland renaissance in the UK, using permaculture woodlands for the betterment of community, environment and climate.

How to Turn Your Town into a Community: Join the Transition Challenge

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

During the month of May, join thousands of people across the country taking action to rise to the challenge of food, water, and energy independence through the Transition Challenge.

Organized by our friends at Transition US, the Transition Challenge is an opportunity to get your hands dirty, create something beautiful, and be counted as part of a bigger movement toward community resilience in the face of climate change and peak oil.

Last year Transition US registered over 4,000 actions in communities across the country, and halfway through May there are already 3,000 actions registered. Folks picked up their shovels and tools, helped construct rainwater harvesting systems, and installed solar panels. Abandoned lots were converted into green oases and school children pulled weeds and planted tomato starts. When these individual actions occur on a large scale, we energize and engage our communities and show the world what is possible.

Here are some of this year’s exciting actions:

  • A new home owner in High Point N. Caroline signed up 10 actions to do at their new home, with lots of fun ideas including converting lawn to grow food, setting up composting system and rainwater harvesting system, hanging a clothes line, mailing vegetable seeds to his/her 7 nieces and nephews, stopping using electricity for 24 hours once a month on a full moon night, etc.
  • Transition Town Charlotte in Vermont: last year they planted a potato garden on the Library lawn, had a public harvest, followed by a “Spud Fest”. The excess potatoes were given to the local food shelf. This year they are expanding the project to include pole beans and tomatoes as well as potatoes. They will again have a Spud Fest again, inviting all townspeople to share favorite recipes, and celebrating the harvest. Also they are removing some invasive ornamentals and replacing them with blueberries, other to-be-decided edibles, and some plants that attract wildlife.
  • Bellingham, WA: is accepting proposals for 3 grants up to $350 to support neighborhood Transition projects. Previous projects they’ve supported include: a community orchard on Lummi Island; a neighborhood garden and orchard specifically to support people in a supported living situation; food bank gardens. They have a work day in May to gather together to implement the projects selected.

To participate in this year’s challenge, you can create your own project or volunteer on a community project in one of four areas: food, water, energy, and community. Transition US has plenty of ideas and how-to guides listed on their website, but the sky is the limit. Whether your “something beautiful” takes the form of a community garden, a compost pile, or even a graywater system, it brings us one step closer to the world we want to live in.

Make sure to register your project to be counted, and feel free to send updates and photos to the TUS team to share and inspire others with your ideas!

Want to learn more about the global Transition Towns movement? Check out the founder’s books:

The Transition Handbook: We live in an oil-dependent world, arriving at this level of dependency in a very short space of time by treating petroleum as if it were in infinite supply. Most of us avoid thinking about what happens when oil runs out (or becomes prohibitively expensive), but The Transition Handbook shows how the inevitable and profound changes ahead can have a positive outcome. These changes can lead to the rebirth of local communities that will grow more of their own food, generate their own power, and build their own houses using local materials. They can also encourage the development of local currencies to keep money in the local area.

The Transition Timeline: The Transition Timeline lightens the fear of our uncertain future, providing a map of what we are facing and the different pathways available to us. It describes four possible scenarios for the UK and world over the next twenty years, ranging from Denial, in which we reap the consequences of failing to acknowledge and respond to our environmental challenges, to the Transition Vision, in which we shift our cultural assumptions to fit our circumstances and move into a more fulfilling, lower energy world.

The Transition Companion: The global Transition Towns movement has come a long way since its unleashing in 2008. The Transition Companion picks up the story today, drawing on the experience of one of the most fascinating experiments under way in the world. It tells inspiring tales of communities working for a future where local economies are valued and nurtured; where lower energy use is seen as a benefit; and where enterprise, creativity, and the building of resilience have become cornerstones of a new economy.

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