Voluntary Radical Simplicity

As much out of necessity as choice, Voluntary Radical Simplicity continues progressing at First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy.

Our local Safeway sells my favorite bread, Food For Life’s Ezekiel Sesame for, regular price $5.99; $5.49 with club card. If one has the wherewithal to drive 50 miles to Tucson, it can be found at Trader Joes for $3.69 a loaf, fresh, unfrozen, every day. We all complain of Safeway’s local gouging. I don’t have the wherewithal, nor desire, but I do have a friend who is pretending to be a vagabond while he decides where he next wants to plant himself. Sometimes it is convenient for me to ‘order’ it from him as he travels there and back; two people not driving the same distance separately is a way to conserve energy, not to mention money.

What is Voluntary Simplicity?

Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting.’[1] The rejection of consumerism arises from the recognition that ordinary Western-style consumption habits are degrading the planet; that lives of high consumption are unethical in a world of great human need; and that the meaning of life does not and cannot consist in the consumption or accumulation of material things. Extravagance and acquisitiveness are accordingly considered an unfortunate waste of life, certainly not deserving of the social status and admiration they seem to attract today. The affirmation of simplicity arises from the recognition that very little is needed to live well – that abundance is a state of mind, not a quantity of consumer products or attainable through them.

I’m very happy that my life is unfolding this way.

According to Keith Farnish, author of Time’s Up: An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis:

“We have been sold The Complexity Myth: the idea that something is only good if it is a product of a complex set of processes, in order that it (or we) can be controlled. We are kept in check by this idea and do not question it because we have forgotten how to live simply; we have been brainwashed to love the world of the complex, and as a result we are prepared to defend the thing that is causing the collapse of the natural world, and our own basic humanity.”

Amazon, about the above mentioned book: Humans have no motivation stronger than survival, yet the culture that dominates “the culture we call Industrial Civilization” has created a set of priorities that value financial wealth, the possession of superfluous goods and short, cheap thrills, above that most basic need. In short, we are prepared to die in order to live a life that is killing us. Time’s Up! is all about changing this. It describes what our actions are doing to the very things on Earth that we depend on for survival, at scales that we rarely contemplate. It arms us with the tools to free us from the culture that has blinded us for centuries, and which will allow us to live lives that will give the Earth, and ourselves, a future. This call-to-action proposes something radical, fundamental, frightening, longterm, exhilarating, and absolutely necessary—something totally uncivilized.

Looks like a good book.

Beautiful Nature

Beautiful Nature

This is the view I get over the fence in the #SouthFortyTriangleLot. Because of the school, it will likely remain virtually unobstructed.

I don’t live in a mud hut. I am far, far from living quite as radically simple as I might should and may yet and I didn’t get to where I am without participating in the above mentioned Industrial Civilization. I think my soul has all along been calling me to simplicity though; because, as is a constant refrain here, I was miserable in it. Miserable, miserable living within the confines of Consumerville.

I worked my career in the high-end home furnishings/window coverings industry. I served mostly rather wealthy folks who could afford the things being sold. I have been in hundreds of homes, most of them huge with two people rattling around in them. “Investments”. I remember going into a 10,000 square foot home and wondering why! Why would anyone want all of that complexity, expense and responsibility.

There was a segment of our city (Southern California) that was devoted to McMansions. Everyone there was trying to out do the other with extravagances; tennis courts, etc. Many lovely people though and it certainly provided a living for me. I soon realized that I didn’t want the things society said I did; I wanted personal freedom to pursue the things I really loved.

So, here I am in Arizona trying to grow food and live as radically simple as I’m able.

Humble Little Abode

Humble Little Abode

My washer went kaput not long ago so I’m rigging up a hand-washing system. I still need a wringer before I can manage things as well as I need to; I’m on the hunt. I guess a new washer can be had for under $300, but it requires electricity and off-the-grid living is a goal here.

My refrigerator did as well, so I purchased one of those little tiny ones for things that have to be kept cold and am trying to utilize other strategies for keeping other food; such as, purchasing daily-ish and trying to grow things I can harvest as needed.

Here’s a great article about how to fashion a root cellar. (I posted it on the Facebook page earlier this week with good reception.)

The most important endeavor for this lifestyle is to figure out how to grow food in a desert. The only thing above that is keeping my Little Red-Haired Girl happy until she decides to leave me.

Little Red-Haired Girl with her handmade 'hoister' on.

Little Red-Haired Girl with her handmade ‘hoister-upper’ on.

The belt around her breast is to help take weight off when she squats to pee. I also help her walk around a little easier by walking with her holding up on the belt. The orange around her middle is how I lift her up from laying. It works perfectly. I slip my fingers under each set of silk-tie bows and lift her straight up until she gets a footing. It was made from a T-shirt, cut into two rectangles, a piece of flannel drapery lining between, quilted diagonally and the four silk tie ends stitched from the bottom up  on each end and tied around her. Orange helps me see her when she struts out on her own.

Living simply involves cooperation with others. My neighbor is happy that I am growing food and is offering trimmings from his own yard and jobs he does.

Lately he asked if I could use some oleander trimmings he was about to have from an upcoming job. He said he would have a lot of them. Boy he wasn’t kidding.

Free resources from a #SupportiveNeighbor

Free resources from a #SupportiveNeighbor

He stacked them on rugs that were there for weed abatement. As I distributed them, I moved the rugs farther down in front of the fence for the back yard.

Oleander mulching the #AlleywayProject

Oleander mulching the #AlleywayProject; #SoilBuilding

The hope is to plant the #AlleywayProject and the #ParkwayProject for a #FoodIsFree thing. Why not plant anything that can be. I read online that oleander breaks down quickly. We’ll see. Most of the soil here is VERY sandy. I’d like to plant grapevines all along the fence for more privacy as well as food.

I lopped this debris as I went along. Still more lopping can be done and will be as time goes by. For now, the blister on my palm forced me to quit.

Lopped down some

Lopped down some

A chipper/shredder would be wonderful, but is that sustainable? You can see by the time stamps on the images that it took me a little over 2 hours from the piles to where it was distributed and lopped. It was good exercise as well. We don’t have to have expensive, gas-using things to do the job where a little patience and fortitude can do the same thing; #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity.

The dead wood was hard to lop

The dead wood was hard to lop

The dead wood will be used too. Possibly a new Hugelkultur mound somewhere, maybe even where it is. It was too hard to lop. Works better to break it up by hand. I got hungry and ran out of steam at this point.

The goal here at First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy is to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. And commission as many old, worn out, on-their-last-leg things into the equation as possible.

I placed an ad in our local trader lately and it is working like a charm. This is just a fraction of the tiles one man has for me. I’ll go back for more as he gets them out to where I can easily access them. What a fun way to meet people too.

Another lady called and will bring a load of hers to me in December, her next trip into town.

Free floor tiles for a mosaic project inside the house

Free floor tiles for a mosaic project inside the house

I’m inching my way to the place I want to be. This Thanksgiving I will spend with my vagabond friend, scaring up whatever we can for a nice meal. We often go out scouting for an off the way place open on Thanksgiving Day to commune with others who don’t have large families or other options. This year, I don’t want to leave Little Red-Haired Girl for any length of time.

Nothing like a home full of animals anyway.

Hope you all have a radically simple, sustainable Happy Thanksgiving as well.

Consider the turkey on Thanksgiving. Specifically, consider not eating it

No turkeys will be harmed on this ‘farm’.


After posting the latest blog on the website, a reader alarmed me about the toxicity of oleander. I had done research before I offered to take the debris from my neighbor and had been convinced that the toxins compost out of it rather quickly. The key is in how it is composted I now suppose; so I may need to collect the stuff I just put out in the #AlleywayProject to compost differently or have my neighbor reclaim it and take it to the dump. The best way to dispose of oleander is by composting it, I’ve read:

Oleander contains highly toxic glycosides, and the branches or leaves left over after oleander shrubs have been dug out or pruned should be disposed of properly. Instead of discarding them in your trash, compost the oleander. This safely dispels the toxins and recycles the oleander waste material into a rich garden amendment that can feed your vegetables, flowers and shrubs.


Toxicity of Oleander Derived
James A. Downer and Arthur Craigmill
Fresh leaves and stems of oleander contained up
to 1500ppm. Oleandrin concentration falls rapidly af-
ter the onset of aerobic composting (Figure 1). Decay
of the glycoside is rapid for about 50 days after which it
s rate of decomposition is much reduced. After 300
days, it was undetectable in compost.
Two vegetable crops were studied for potential
uptake of oleandrin. Growth measurements were not
taken however, lettuce grew rapidly, reaching maturity
in less than 60days. Except for a single sample, no
oleandrin was detected in any lettuce plants (Table 1).
Tomatoes required longer to grow and produce a crop.
Tomatoes growing in soil with incorporated oleander
showed symptoms of nitrogen deficiency early in the
test, but recovered, yielding a sufficient crop by the
time of harvest. After approximately 90 days, tomatoes
were harvested, frozen and analyzed for oleandrin. The
fruit were determined to be “clean”. Fruit from the
same vines were subsequently eaten without harm.
Composting is an effective method means of de-
stroying one of the toxic glycosides in oleander. The
composting process causes a rapid decline in oleandrin
concentration and eventually its complete disappear-
ance from the compost. It is hard to determine what a
“safe” level of oleandrin would be for compost, because
compost is not consumed by people. Livestock may
nibble fresh leaves of mulches, but would probably
avoid composted materials. After fifty days, the level
of oleandrin in compost falls to less than 10% of its
original concentration in the feedstock. It would be
most unlikely to cause harm if ingested, because a high
volume of compost would be required to consume a
toxic dose.
It appears from our growth studies that oleandrin
is not transported into plants.
My mind tumbled for quite awhile last night trying to figure out how to continue taking advantage of this debris. Possibly dig a trench and bury it? Pile it higher along the fence footer and barricade it with stakes and cardboard? Any suggestions?
sfgate.com had this to say; which contradicts above study. They cited no studies.


Once you’ve pruned the shrub, you need to dispose of the clippings. Unlike other garden clippings, oleander parts should not go into the compost heap. Nothing removes the toxicity from the branches — not cold, rain, heat nor time. People have been poisoned from cooking a hot dog on an oleander skewer and in an interview with “The New York Times,” Dr. Larry J. Thompson, a clinical toxicologist in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, says “even a few leaves falling into a small ornamental pool could poison a dog who lapped water from the pool.” Oleander clippings will contaminate your entire compost and render it unfit and even dangerous for use. Do not burn the clippings, as the smoke from them is also toxic. Instead, load the oleander debris in heavy plastic bags for disposal in a city dump. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/oleander-clippings-toxic-compost-75677.html


1 thought on “Voluntary Radical Simplicity

  1. Pingback: Home Sweet Home | First Do No Harm Front Yard Farmacy

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