RSS Feed

A Treeless World

Posted on


Fifteen billion trees were cut down, around the world, in 2019.

Fifteen billion!

That’s an average of two trees per human being living on the planet . . . per year!

There are three trillion trees on this planet of ours.

Take a moment and do some math.  Divide 15 billion into 3 trillion. The answer will tell you how much longer we will have trees on this planet unless something is done to alter the madness.

Let’s continue with the statistics.

23% of the wilderness on this planet remains, down from 100% when mankind discovered farming around 8,000 B.C.  We have, in fact, lost ten percent since the end of the 1990’s.

Do the math! How much wilderness do you think will remain in ten more years?

These are not random statistics I found on some disreputable website. I spent several hours following up on these statistics, looking at different sources, hoping against hope that what I found was incorrect.


Our vast human numbers, and our need for resources, and our lifestyles, are using up the Earth at an alarming pace.

Which leads us to this question . . .


Well, in fact, there are quite a few organizations aware of the problem, which are trying their hardest to make people aware and change lifestyles, but the fact of the matter is, most people are unaffected by this during their daily lives and thus, unconcerned.  As long as they can go to the store and purchase toilet paper, or as long as they can go to the store and purchase palm oil products, everything is fine in their world.

But it really isn’t, is it?


On a global scale, I can do very little. I am not a world figure and, in fact, it would take the agreement of all world leaders to really make a substantive difference.

All I can do, and this is more for my own peace of mind than anything else, is do my part. I can plant more trees. I can lessen my own personal consumption of wood products.  I can keep writing articles about it, hoping that I reach several people in the process.  I can recycle like a man gone mad.

It doesn’t seem like much, but at least I can put my head on my pillow, at night, and sleep a little bit better.

For more information, here’s a link to the Nature Conservancy.


A Word About Simplicity

Posted on

I came across this fascinating statistic the other day: there are 2.2 billion square feet of self-storage space in the United States alone.

Let that one sink in a bit.  2.2 billion, with a “b” . . . I mean, we all see those self-storage units when we are out driving, but who would have guessed that figure?

Now let’s take it a bit further . . . there are 330 million people living in the U.S., and of that total, 253 million are eighteen-years or older.  So that means that 253 million people need 2.2 billion square feet of self-storage space to store their junk that won’t fit into their home.

I don’t have a calculator with me, but that seems like a hell of a lot of junk, per person, to me.

Capitalism at its best, right?

Listen, I know there are valid reasons why people would use a storage unit. Heck, I worked for one of those companies for a year, so I have heard explanations that made perfect sense.  As one woman recently pointed out to me, rather condescendingly, I might add, in today’s society many people are homeless, and they just need a storage unit to store their possessions once they have lost their homes. I understand that, but that in no way explains why there are so many storage units being used.

By and large, the major reason for renting a storage unit is because a person has too many possessions.  Period! End of story!  That was my experience while working in that industry, and it’s my belief today.

People buy too much junk and then need a place to store that junk while they go out and buy more junk.

The American Dream, right?

And then would you like to discuss the average debt of Americans?  Credit cards, student loans, personal loans, car loans, the average American has $38,000 of debt excluding mortgages, according to one study I read. I read several studies and that $38,000 figure is the lowest I found. Some studies claim the average debt is closer to $80,000 per person.

The American Dream equals financial madness, in my humble opinion.  And loan companies, banks, and major corporations are applauding our madness.

It’s just something to think about on this “Living Simple” blog.  I’m not selling a darned thing. I’m not trying to convince you of anything. I’m just tossing out some figures for your consideration.  My wife and I, we are simplifying.  We are getting rid of the excess baggage, one piece at a time, so that by the time she retires, in two years, we will be a lean machine, no debt and no excess baggage.

Just something for you to think about!

Have a great day, and thanks for the visit.


The Simplicity Institute

I came across The Simplicity Institute while watching some videos about intentional communities, so before I talk to you about the Institute, I should probably explain about intentional communities.

According to the Fellowship for Intentional Community, an intentional community is a place where people live “together with shared resources on the basis of explicit common values. Some examples include ecovillages, cohousing, land trusts, income-sharing communes, student co-ops, and spiritual communities.”

Think communes of the 60’s without the weirdness.  LOL

There are literally hundreds of them, if not thousands, sprinkled around the United States, Australia, and Western Europe, and they range in size from ten residents to hundreds of residents.

As strange as that may seem to some of you, it is not a terribly radical idea. There is an architectural concept in community planning called “pocket neighborhoods” which is based on this concept, and the concept was born because many people want to belong to a community and share common values. The only reason this may sound strange in 2020 is because we have become a nation of social networking with very little actual face-to-face interaction.

A pocket neighborhood is kind of like a small neighborhood within a larger neighborhood.  It is a place where the homes are usually set in a circular formation with a “common grounds” in the middle of the circle.  The fronts of the homes face the commons.  Vehicles are not allowed near the commons and instead are parked behind the homes.  In the commons, kids play together, and neighbors often meet for informal get-togethers or barbecues or whatever.

Again, this is not a new concept.  Back in the 1700’s and early 1800’s, many villages were planned in this matter, the Village Green in the center and homes circling the Green.  Hell, if you think of cul-de-sacs in many housing developments, it’s really the same concept on a smaller scale.

What this does, obviously, is increase social interaction.  Those who live in such an arrangement speak often of the sense of community they feel.  It makes you wonder why we don’t see more of it in city planning, at least until you realize that the sort of planning I’m talking about is not the most efficient regarding real estate. Open spaces mean fewer homes, and fewer homes mean less property tax for the city, and that approach is rarely popular with planning commissions.

Now, back to intentional communities, take the pocket neighborhood concept, but expand it and place it on ten, twenty, fifty acres.  Large common meeting buildings, common kitchens, common gardens, are the center, or hub, of the community, and homes surround the common areas.

The concept fascinates me, as it does my wife, Bev.  I miss the sense of community I felt so strongly during my childhood. I really haven’t felt community for fifty years so yes, this interests me.

More later . . . just something I thought you might find interesting.

Have a fabulous week!



Planting Trees Makes Me Happy

Before transformation

About five years back (maybe more, time being a bit uncertain these days), my wife and I made the decision to tear up the front lawn and replace it with berry bushes and fruit trees.  We had a vision of a lush “you pick them” front yard where people could walk by, grab a handful of berries or a pear, and go on their way.

As inconsistent as we’ve been about what to do with the backyard, I’m happy to report consistency with the front yard dream.  We have planted yearly, fought a constant battle with weeds, and we have slowly won the battle in transforming nature.

As you can see from the pictures, we have several new trees in the front yard, new being relative, of course.  I think we’ve planted five trees in the front since we started this new transforming crusade, and two in the back.

Here’s the thing about planting trees: We (my wife and I) will never be leaders of some national or world environmental movement.  We just try to do our part.  No, our seven new trees will not make a sizeable difference compared to the tens-of-thousands cut down in the Amazon yearly, but it can also be said that our seven new trees will certainly not hurt the environmental situation, and will probably help in a small way – and that makes me happy in a very reserved way.  It’s depressing to know I can’t stop deforestation, but it’s gratifying to know I’m at least not a part of the problem.

Here’s another thing: It takes so very little effort to plant a tree.  Seriously little effort! The whole process takes what, fifteen minutes? The tree costs what?  No cost? Twenty bucks? Thirty?  And practically every damned piece of property can benefit from having another tree, which leaves me to wonder why more people don’t plant them.


After plantings

There was this story that was circulating a couple weeks ago about a number of African countries which are coming together to form this “tree chain” stretching through twenty-six nations. The national leaders had agreed to plant an uninterrupted chain of trees, called “The Great Green Wall,” at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, some 5,000 miles.

I read that story and was duly impressed, so I re-shared the story on Facebook, and I asked if that would be possible to do in the United States, and this one woman comes on and rants about how there is no way that many African nations will do this project peacefully, and how it will lead to wars and civil wars, so they might as well not even start the project.

WTF? I had asked if people thought it was possible to do a similar project in the United States, and this woman goes on a rant about African nations not getting along with each other.  Why are people so damned negative about stuff like this?  I think it’s so cool that twenty-six nations could even come to an agreement over something – anything – and that reader, all she saw was some geo-political war possibility.  How about, #1, answering my question and #2, how about shooting for some positivity in life?

Oh well!  I can’t worry about all that. Why people do what they do, or don’t do what they don’t do, is none of my business.  I’m going to head out to the backyard and figure out where we can add another tree once I finish writing this.


We are still kicking around ideas of what we want to do once Bev retires in two years. Live here, don’t live here, buy property, buy an RV, and on and on and on and on it goes.

Stay tuned!

Of course, you know that old joke, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans!  I’m not sure what good it does to spend much time making plans, you know?


DIY Tools of the Trade

Posted on

I thought I would give you a peak at my tool box, just for the fun of it.

Before we begin, please note that I am not a carpenter.  I have no training in building things.  Thus, the tools I use can be used by any novice and can attain the same results I’ve achieved with my various projects. All it takes is a willingness to try, a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them, and a friendship with YouTube.

I think it’s an important point to make. I’ve met a lot of people who have said they wouldn’t know where to begin in taking on some projects I’ve completed. Carpentry seems totally foreign to them, so they simply pay someone else to do it for them.

I’m just not wired that way.  Truth be told, I don’t have the money to pay people do build things for me, but it is also a matter of my “can do it” mentality, a mentality born from my father’s adherence to the DIY code of living.

Please note, I have my limitations, even with my DIY mentality. I would never attempt to build a house.   Tricky angles give me the fits.  I still have trouble, at times, squaring things up so that everything fits snugly.  But I carry on, learning as I go, and that’s what this blog article is all about.

Let’s take a look at the tools I have, tools which can accomplish darn near any project you take on at home.


90% of the cutting I do, I do with this circular saw.  My stepson bought it for me for a Christmas present maybe six years ago, and it has served me well.  I replace the blade when needed. I have become pretty efficient at lining the cut up and cutting to the desired length, and pretty good is what I aspire to.


I love my jigsaw.  My only mistake was in not buying a more expensive one. This one is cheap and it keeps having issues, but a jigsaw is wonderful for making cuts which do not follow a straight line, and with a bit of practice I have become adequate with it. Again, I shoot for adequate and not perfection.


This is really the workhorse of the tools I have. I took apart a deck with this saw. I have sawed large limbs off trees with this saw. I have cut through nails and screws with this saw. It’s got a serious vibration when it’s cutting, and it gives your arm a workout, but I love it.


If you like screwing things in by hand, or drilling holes by hand, without the use of anything but arm power, I say good for you. For my money, nothing beats a power screwdriver/drill.  They come with a power chord and they come battery-powered, and I can’t begin to estimate the amount of use this tool has seen since I bought it.


The picture shows a right angle, tape measure, a level, a set of drill bits, and a set of screw heads/bits.  These are basics, and without them practically any DIY project is doomed to fail.


What did they all cost?  I would venture to guess there is about $250 wrapped up in all of them. Maybe $300.  For this DIY guy, it is money well-spent.

I want to leave you with this word of encouragement: you can do it! I am not exaggerating when I say I had no skills when I started out ten years ago.  I started with zero knowledge about building anything.  Since then I’ve built two aviaries, probably ten chicken coops, a front-porch extension, and various other small structures.  My goal has never been to be perfect. My goals were always to be efficient, to save some money, and to have some fun during the process.

And I’ve achieved those goals.

Happy building to you all!


Progress, Not Perfection

Posted on

The Dog Days of Summer finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest.  It’s not terribly hot, but I’m fine with temps remaining below eighty.  It’s good walking weather most days, good weather for outdoor chores, and the veggies are exploding in the garden.  All is well in my little corner of the universe.


The porch extension is done and painted. All that remains is to mix cement and pour that cement on the next section of the porch.  It turned out all right.  Most of my projects turn out less than perfect, but I’m fine with that.  If something needs to be done perfectly, like electrical work, or plumbing, I hire.  Projects like the porch, I can do, and I’m perfectly all right with imperfect. (update: the cement has been poured)

I was thinking about growing up as I was working on the porch.  My dad was a teenager during The Great Depression.  He was of that generation which tackled problems with a vengeance, and if they didn’t know how to do something, they simply faked it and did it anyway. They couldn’t afford to pay for a job to be done.  If it had to be fixed, they figured out a way to fix it.  None of their projects were done perfectly, but they were all functional when they finished.

I remember a day Dad was going to rewire something upstairs in the Rec Room.  Dad was not an electrician, but that wasn’t going to stop him from fixing whatever it was that needed fixing.  He was up on the ladder, working on the overhead light. I was reading a book in the corner, keeping him company, when suddenly I head him say “SHIT” and he was knocked off the ladder and sprawled on the floor.

Live wire!

He shook his head, laughed, got back up, and said “I guess I forgot to turn the power off.”

Nearly being electrocuted didn’t stop him. He went downstairs, turned off the power to the entire house, came back upstairs and finished installing that new wire.

Imperfection personified – that was my dad!


The problem we have with our vegetable garden is we don’t have the time to devote to it.  It has exploded in growth. We have a bounty.  It’s a nice problem to have, too much of something, but I feel badly that we let it get out of control. Some plants never had a chance because we didn’t space things out properly. Some plants died.

Oh well!  We’ll do better next year.  In the meantime, we have enough potatoes and peas to feed an army.


We did a good job with the berries this year. We kept them trimmed back so they wouldn’t choke off anything around them, and we have a wonderful crop of berries this year. Raspberries are done with; blackberries are bountiful, as are the blueberries. The freezer is full.


I don’t know, but I’m leaning towards building a brick barbecue out back.  No, I’m not a bricklayer, but I am my father’s son, and that means I’ll get it done, imperfect but functional, thank you very much.


People are always asking me what happened to our dream of living in a tiny home.  It’s not dead yet. We just can’t make up our minds. Nothing is going to happen until Bev retires in two years. At that time, we’ll make a decision.  We are even considering getting an RV and traveling around the country.  So, it’s all up in the air. Until then, though, there are repairs that need to be made to this house, so we’ll plug away at them and keep moving forward.

Have a great beginning of August!  If you get a chance, let me know how your summer is coming along.


Summer? What Summer?

Posted on

Summer has arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere, the Northwest corner of the United States, Olympia, Washington.  I know this because I finally had to water the berry bushes out front.

People were complaining because they didn’t think summer would ever get here.  Those people instantly labeled themselves as foreigners, because us natives know that summer does not arrive here until the 4th of July approaches.  We used to joke that summer begins in the Puget Sound area on July 5th.  The past few summers have been anomalies with warm temps in May and June, but this year we are back to the real normal for our area.

Now we can expect brilliant weather for July, August, and September, but all bets are off once October arrives.  (check that – the morning I wrote this it was 56 degrees and drizzling)

By the way, last week we experienced the longest day of sunlight in the year.  It’s all downhill from now on.  LOL  Increasing darkness each day – how’s that for depressing?


It’s out of control, thank you very much. The potatoes must be on steroids. They took over half the garden. So much for planning.

The corn is struggling. Corn always struggles at our home.

Peas are doing nicely. Beans are doing nicely.

Pretty much what we expected except for those potatoes. I have no idea what got into them, but they are dominating.


Great berry year! The weather has been perfect so far for berries, and it looks like we will have endless smoothies in the coming months.  We stayed on top of the front yard this year, so it hasn’t grown out of control.  People walking by always look at our yard, and the berries, and we receive nice compliments, probably because we encourage them to grab a few berries on the way by.


It’s stacked and drying as we speak.  We tried a new supplier this year. I was skeptical because, well, I don’t like trying new suppliers, but I think his wood will turn out fine.  Which reminds me, we need to clean the stovepipe in the next couple months.  Another item for the to-do list.


I want to extend it. We have a small seating area there, and I’m going to extend it three feet so the porch is even with the overhang roof.  It’s a pretty easy project and I should be able to do it in two or three days once I get motivated. I’ll go buy the materials tomorrow and that stack of lumber will serve as a daily reminder for me to get off of my lazy butt and get it done.


Nothing exciting to tell you; just an update on one man’s life in one corner of the world, one of 7.5 billion in many corners.  My story is unique because it’s mine, but it’s also relatable because it’s about a human being.  I was thinking about that the other day, 7.5 billion, all with individual concerns and jobs and tasks and motivators, and it’s a wonder any of us get along at all, but it’s also a wonder so many don’t seem to understand their neighbors when really, we are all so very much alike.

Just random musings from Olympia!

Have a great first week of July, and Happy 4th to my American friends.



Posted on

It’s been a pretty cool spring so far; add to that a very cool June.  I mention that because of our garden.  The potatoes have gone crazy in this weather. Peas love it.  Strawberries, you betcha, quite happy thank you very much.

Meanwhile the beans are struggling, as are the tomatoes, as are the melons.

Such is life, eh?

Many are struggling during the COVID-19 period. Some are thriving.

And on and on we go.  Airlift me to Borneo, shove me out of the plane with a parachute, and I would struggle on my own.  Similarly, take a resident of Borneo, drop him off in a big city, and there would be a certain amount of culture shock.


Living a simple life is easy for me.  I was raised lower-middle class. We rarely had extras. I saw how hard my parents had to work just for necessities, so I grew up understanding the value of hard work and savings, and I was taught how to squeeze a buffalo nickel until it shit (you can thank my dad for that colorful saying).

It’s not that easy for many people. I was married to one back in the Eighties. She had been married to a rich man before me, so adjusting to my lower income and my lifestyle attitude did not go smoothly for her.  Now I’m married to Bev, and she gets it, having been a single mother for many years, working a couple jobs at a time just to keep the heat on.


My best year of earnings was 1987 when I made $120,000.  I worked hard for it, averaging fourteen-hour days at the convenience store we owned. We had extras and oodles of nice things, we were comfortable, but I was miserable.

Today I make about twenty-thousand per year, we live simply, and I am happy.  Would I like to have extras? Would I like to have more money in savings? Would I like to go out and purchase a new pickup truck? Yes to all of those questions, but I’m no longer willing to work hard enough and long enough to make it all happen because, well, I’m already happy.


Warmer weather is in the forecast next week. The tomatoes will be happy, as will the melons.  The peas and potatoes will adjust, or they won’t.  I’ll do more of my chores in the early morning, and spend afternoons lounging during the peak heat.  I will look out over our yard and I’ll smile. I will take our dogs for a walk and I’ll laugh.  I will enjoy the company of my wife and I will be reminded of how much I love her.

It’s a pretty cool June so far, in more ways than one. 😊

Live long and prosper, my friends, and blessings to you always.


Growth and Unanswered Questions

Posted on

Everything is growing!

That makes me smile!

It sure doesn’t take long once the weather cooperates.  The garden was bare one week and flooded in green the next.

Bev and I go out each night and measure the growth.  I know, it sounds weird, but it’s also the truth.


I wonder about a lot of things, like this COVID-19 thing, I wonder if people are going to learn from it, or will our fruit-fly memories forget valuable lessons two years into the future?

The economy isn’t going to get noticeably better for most of us.  For many, returning to an “economic normal” may not happen.  Money will be in shorter supply.  Prices of commodities may rise. Shortages may occur.  What will many do?  Will they grow gardens? Will they cut down their debt? Will they downsize?  Will they look for alternative and supplemental income?  Will they learn the art of DIY?

And what happens if another virus appears?  Or a natural disaster like a tornado or hurricane or wildfire?  And your local economy is shattered again?  Are we all willing to bet it won’t happen?

So many questions to consider!


We are on a battleground right now.  Our retailers need our assistance, and I’m talking about our local retailers.  No, not Costco or WalMart or Starbucks or Amazon – those big retailers/suppliers will survive quite nicely, thank you. Their shareholders might take a little hit on their bonuses, but those corporations will march forward into the future with few concerns.

I’m talking about your local farms and mom & pop stores, those with one foot on solvency and the other on bankruptcy, those who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.  They need us now!  They do not have a bailout plan. They do not have mega-investors to save their butts.  Most of them barely have the savings to protect them for six months.  When restrictions are lifted, they need their community to step up and buy local.

Just my opinion, mind you.

I buy my flavored coffee from a locally-owned coffee kiosk. I refuse to buy from Starbucks, even though it is headquartered sixty miles from my home.  I buy fresh produce from Spuds, a locally-owned fruit and produce store. I will not step foot in WalMart.  We try to buy as many of our groceries from Ralphs Thriftway, a locally-owned supermarket, rather than Costco.  It would take a gun to my head to get me inside Costco.  Bev shops whenever possible at the Olympia Farmers Market.  Yes, she pays a bit more for their goods, but it’s money well-spent for us.

Does it make a difference?  I believe it does, and since it’s my money, that’s all that really counts now isn’t it?


I can’t help but think about our neighborhood when I was growing up.  We literally had a mom & pop store a block from our house. It was a converted home and it was called Field’s Grocery.  It was one room, what would have been a living room, and that room had all the staples someone would need in a rush i.e. toilet paper, milk, eggs, sugar, etc.  It was run by, appropriately, Mrs. Fields. She was such a kind woman.  She knew the names of all us kids, the names of our parents, and she would always give us a piece of penny candy when we stopped by to buy something for our parents.

A block in the other direction was Stanley Meats, a meat market run by two brothers, the Stanleys, of course, two WW2 vets who were butchers.  They knew our names as well. They always had candy for us as well.

It was comforting, you know, having those two retailers in our neighborhood.  I would be hard-pressed to tell you exactly why they were so important to our neighborhood, but they were, and all nearby families shopped at those two shops because, well, they were part of the fabric of that neighborhood.

Just a thought to ponder.


Are you making any changes to your lifestyle based on current events?  Just curious what others are doing, you know?

Pax vobiscum to all of you!  I’ve got slugs to do battle with.


Darkest Before the Dawn

Posted on

It’s going to get bad, my friends.

It’s hard to tell that now, with relief money doled out, and unemployment checks, and stimulus checks, but six months from now, a new reality will settle over us.

That’s not a Chicken Little statement.  I’m not one for panicking or depression or anxiety.  It’s just a simple statement of fact, as I see it, based on my knowledge of economics, macro and micro.

It’s going to get bad, and the poor and the lower middle class, those who live paycheck to paycheck, and those who have no safety net, are going to feel the full force of this new reality.


I don’t say this with any measure of gloating or pride, but my wife and I are pretty much unscathed by the economic troubles right now.  Part of that is because of my Social Security and Teamsters retirement checks, but another part of it is because ten years ago we took steps to “spread out and diversify” our revenue sources.  At the same time we began to move towards a debt-free lifestyle.

Are we there yet?  No, but we are close enough so we don’t have to worry about paying our bills.

I make money as a freelance writer, and I’m actually making more now than I have in the last five years.  Bev makes money from a part-time job plus a variety of odd jobs she picks up here and there i.e. feeding animals for people, milking on her son’s goat farm, etc.  The point is this: we have income from a variety of sources.  It’s a sort of safety net, if you will.  If one source dries up, or disappears, the others provide necessary income.

Have we paid off all of our debt? No, but we are infinitely better off today than we were ten years ago.

And we still have our house, and we may decide to stay here, simply because it can always be used as a source of income should we need it i.e. rent out a room or two if necessary.

So I’m not terribly concerned about the future, but I also think concern is warranted for millions of people who are not prepared for what’s coming down the pike.  They keep comparing this current economic downturn to the Great Recession of 2008. They should compare it to the Great Depression of the 30’s, because that’s really the benchmark we need to look at.

Unemployment is now at 18%, and that’s a conservative estimate.  We have not seen unemployment that high since 1939.  The food system has gaping holes in it.  Nine million Americans have lost their health insurance, and that number is increasing.  Global trade looks like a piece of Swiss cheese right now, and some of our trading partners will not recover in our lifetime.  And there is no comprehensive plan of recovery.   Anyone with a basic knowledge of economics can tell you that simply easing restrictions on social distancing is not going to fix what is currently broken.  Millions of jobs at thousands of companies have disappeared.  They could completely end social distancing tomorrow and there would be millions with no job to return to.


I don’t give advice unless it’s asked for, and nobody asked for it, so I’m just going to tell you what we are doing to deal with the present and prepare for the future:

  • Absolutely no new debt
  • Pay down existing debt
  • Look for other income sources
  • Downsize, downsize, and downsize some more
  • Grow as much food as possible

That should keep us busy for the next few months, don’t you think?

Be safe!