“… I am involved in unheated greenhouses; I have become passionate about them. I have a small indoor greenhouse that I installed last year for my sprouts, and I am in there all the time.”

After returning from a trip to Argentina, I started to seriously reflect on the cost of food as well as its impact on my domestic economy (how we invest money instead of time to purchase the food that we don’t grow ourselves). This new way of considering household finances really fascinates me.

Last year I travelled for 6 months and it was one of the best years of my life. I took the time to reflect on the nature of this experience and how I can integrate a slower and more conscientious pace increasingly into my daily life. 

I read an inspiring book on vertical gardening, and I was enthralled by how we can have an abundant production on such a small surface area.

Do you ever visit the library? I know that it may require that you venture from your home, however with a young baby, it offers a calm and peaceful sanctuary, I find it very relaxing.

This library also offers the potential for chance discoveries that we may not experience by perusing websites. So many times I have left with several books that I didn't even know existed, and wouldn’t have discovered if I had limited by search to the Internet. There are so many beautiful things to learn about the topics that interest us; I feel that I could never read all that I desire in one lifetime. Many libraries offer access to digital books (often more than 30 000), that you can borrow from the comfort of your own home.

I would like to share a few titles that have helped me to Slow Down in my Life:

 - Slowfood, choosing to simplify and declutter your life, offers many helpful reflections as well as practical ideas on food conservation, bulk purchases, household economy,.. I would be curious to hear your opinion. Basically, everything that helps us to start Slowing Down in Different Aspects of our Life.

We (often) look for organic food, first and foremost in support of our own health, and then we become aware of the soil, Climate Change, Pollution and the Vitality of Food. We are concerned with the concepts of Local, Permaculture, Urban Agriculture, and all things that will cultivate planetary health and at the same time (or even perhaps above all) the health of humanity, our communities, of our neighbours with whom we share space and yet could share so much more and therefore reduce our individual and collective waste. If only we worked less and thought more creatively about how to pool some of our community revenue to invest in shared lawnmowers and snow blowers, to take greater responsibility as consumers (and polluters), and agreed that we can do better, live differently, with less.

Recovery, recycling, up cycling, food waste, no waste, less gas. All whiles thinking about our speed of living, we desire to slow down, to rediscover household economy, our capacity to share and trade, using our time vs. our money, to start growing instead of purchasing, to become more autonomous. Let’s start thinking Slow, Choosing Simplicity and how we Invest our Time, ask yourself if we are really living according to what truly matters to us. We need to ask ourselves what we really care about, what do we really what?

We long for the wisdom of lost cultures, to reclaim our ancestral knowledge, not to go back in time, but to live differently, to establish a New Balance.

Because SLOW is just another speed, I consider it a Better Speed.

In this new paradigm, my new way of thinking in seeking a new way of living, I find myself more and more drawn to envision Self-Sustenance and Autonomy. This enticing idea manifests as less dependency on the System of Agro-Agriculture Businesses, to resist the common culture as a means of Self Protection, Preservation and Restoration of the Elements and Resources around and available to us. We can vote for our right to food several times a day.

The field of Self Sustainability is vast and has many subtopics. The following represent some books that were inspiring, informative and even transformative for me as I embarked on this new journey: 

·      Market Gardening

“Le jardin écologique”, Yves Gagnon

A wonderful work that share the culmination of 30 years of experience in small gardening production. You are introduced to key ideas, such as, crop rotation, food vitality as above all, how to create and sustain soil, which is the foundational principle of permaculture. I have read many books on gardening, but never have I achieved such a clear understanding of how to manage soil, compost, crop rotation and green fertilizers.  Check out local seed banks and gardens to find heirloom seeds and supplies.

(Here are some English resources: https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=market+gardening)

In attempt to summarize a wealth of information, the whole idea is based on a maximum production with the smallest available space (sometimes 4 different cultivations on a square foot area). The combination of permaculture principles with a limited availability of space have sparked the development of specific technique that help to lengthen the growing season of Northern Canadian/Quebec climates, which have been proven successful by the growing number of local family and organic farms.

“The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses” By Elliot Coleman, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Eliot Coleman is the American Specialist in Unheated Greenhouses, “growing on the back of the calendar”, unheated food production (except for sprouting greenhouses) for 11 months of the year out of Maine, USA. Another book that provides the wisdom of 30 years of experiences with farmer’s almanacs and growing curves that have been modified for winter climates, which reminds us our French Market Garden Heritage, there was a time when Paris was self-sufficient in Food production and provided an abundance of fresh produce for its population and that even of England, all using unheated greenhouses.

·      Homesteading:

This term originates from Roosevelt’s Homestead Act, which was a political initiative to encourage the population of remote lands, the essential tenets were: Build your Home, Live Self-Sufficiently for 5 years and we will give you ownership of the land (its very systematic, however it was applied to many parts of Canada as well). For practical reasons I live in the city, however I have interested myself with the project of “homesteading” small areas by applying the principles of permaculture to an area of 1 acre in order to grow my own food, fertilize my own soil, produce compost and mulch; basically in efforts of establishing a balanced ecosystem within an enclosed space. There are several American books that explore Homesteading for Small Areas:

“One Acre Homesteading: Planning for Self-Sufficiency and Financial Independence” – Sara Simmons McDonald.

In this book, the author divulges their process, their trials and errors, and the resulting conclusions and reflections on Homesteading and Domestic Economy; a very interesting read that offers a practical look at Self-Sufficiency and Financial Independence. There are some intriguing reflections on how we choose to spend our time, and how we can use money to only purchase the things that we haven’t had time to do or grow ourselves.

·      Urban Agriculture

There are many books on this subject, however I recommend the following book that not only discusses your garden, but the heart of the imperative matter of self-sufficiency within our communities and eating locally grow produce. Written by a Food Activist who practices guerrilla gardens in municipal spaces, park boundaries and private land, growing clandestine crop for all to freely enjoy.

“Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community” – Heather Jo Flores

·      Resource Management and Organization

“Natural Kitchen, Your Guide to the Sustainable Food Revolution” – Deborah Eden Tull

After a 7 years residency at a Zen Monastery, where she worked primarily in the kitchen, this author decided to return to LA to share her diverse experiences in agriculture and permaculture in order to earn a living.  She has become a sustainability coach, and now works to help communities establish sustainable practices.  Through the use of solar power to create zero waste kitchens, we interact with fundamental principles of permaculture, ecological systems of organization, and waste free cooking. This book is at once unexpected and stimulating by presenting different systems of cooking that enable us to reflect on our own choices and practices.

Reflections on the Question of Food and Agriculture… 

In order to reinforce our determination, stimulate reflection or renew motivation, I recommend the following two books:

“Consumed: Sustainable Food for a Finite Planet”, Sarah Elton

How will manage to feed the World’s Population in 2050? The author meets with families from the four corners of the Earth in order to trace the landmark shifts towards Industrial Agriculture in order to share excellent models of Organic and Local Agriculture Resistance. 

Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food” Wendell Berry 

A collection of essays from 1970 – 2000 that explore the issue of the long-term effects of industrial agriculture, much of which we have been experiencing for the past ten years; brilliant, compelling and highly pertinent. Soil impoverishment, loss of community and the true producing potential of land, the choice to raise cattle and not food, the impact of tractors, other farming technologies and traditional practices. I cannot emphasize enough the pertinence of this material, a passionate and illuminating read.  I found this book through “Natural Kitchen” which in turn had cited “le jardin ecologique” as a reference…if I wanted to make a play on words I would say that I have been experiencing “Permareading" 

Happy Reading!

…. and a couple of days later, more titles to share:

“ I have to add to the list two more books, though the second is more indirectly linked to Self-Sufficiency I still think it provides some great ideas on how to reduce waste and unnecessary purchases in order to have the time to invest in Self-Sufficiency. Chosen Simplicity and Decluttering are key components on the quest towards a sustainable food culture.

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life”, Jenna Woginrich

This books offers no scientific facts, however shares the story of a city girl that sought autonomy without expecting to live in a homestead at retirement…A humorous and enjoyable read, the author shares her trials and errors on the path towards an self-sufficient life while sharing tips on how to raise chickens, beekeeping and market gardening.

Also, lovers of Dominique Loreau, have you read: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of De-cluttering and Organizing”

A completely different approach, which considers the emotional quality that objects carry, impacting our ability to keep, give away or, as she says, “place in joy”. She is a Japanese Consultant who helps individuals get out of their cluttered slumps.

The most impactful lesson for me (aside from how to reflect on whether or not my belongings ‘brought me joy”) was to fold my drawer contents vertically. For example, organize t-shirts vertically by colour, as you would CD’s. No more mess and you can see everything at a glance. This was a real revelation, and I consider it as important as vertical gardening: when we have limited space and an abundant need for fruits and vegetables.