Life Place

“Bioregionalism is simply biological realism; in natural systems we find the physical truth of our being, the real obvious stuff like the need for oxygen as well as the more subtle need for moonlight, and perhaps other truths beyond those. Not surprisingly, then, bioregionalism holds that the health of natural systems is directly connected to our own physical/psychic health as individuals and as a species, and for that reason natural systems and their informing integrations deserve, if not litter veneration, at least our clearest attention and deepest respect. No matter how great our laws, technologies, or armies, we can’t make the sun rise every morning nor the rain dance on the golden-back ferns. To understand natural systems is to begin an understanding of the self. When we destroy a river, we increase our thirst, ruin the beauty of free-flowing water, forsake the meat and spirit of the salmon, and lose a little bit of our souls.” –  Jim Dodge 1990, Home! A Bioregional Reader

Recode Oregon

I’m constantly amazed by the ingenious and progressive ideas coming from the western US. Recode Oregon seeks to recode changes codes to legalize sustainable building practices by creating collaborative relationships with communities and regulators.

On spaceship Earth there is really no “away” to throw things. It’s time our legislation reflect a zero waste outlook and local government support a different way of supporting natural building, ecological sanitation, and other more closed-loop means of living.

“If you knew how you ought to live, then the flaw that is man could be controlled. If you knew how you ought to live, you wouldn’t be forever screwing up the world. Perhaps, in fact, the two things are actually one thing. Perhaps the flaw in man is exactly this: that he doesn’t know how he ought to live.” – Daniel Quinn

Two Sisters Natural Soap & Farmers’ Market April 7th

Today I’d like to share about my new acquaintance at the Clermont Farmers’ Market: Aurora from Two Sisters Natural Soap. Not only is Aurora one of the kindest, friendliest souls I’ve met, she is an artisan soap maker and a wealth of knowledge about anything relating to natural body care. All this, and her soaps are absolutely FANTASTIC! They smell out-of-this-world, don’t dry my skin, and I know they’re all natural and made with love and care. Since the showers in our house are piped to drain into the garden and we finished our outdoor garden shower, it’s important for us to use biodegradable, natural bath products. You can now find Two Sisters on my local Resources page!

Two Sisters' Gardener's Helper soap is one of my favorites!

Two Sisters’ Gardener’s Helper soap is one of my favorites!

There are at least four reasons why I insist on what I’ll call “real” soap (simple ingredients, biodegradable, homemade).

  1. Better for the Earth: Natural, biodegradable ingredients are so much better for the Earth. They won’t damage water ecosystems with phosphates or pollute with chemicals.
  2. Better for us: You may have heard of sodium laureth sulfate, phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and diethanolamine being present in our body products. This article from the Washington Post explains the dangers associated with the body care products of our industrialized civilization. When you make your own or buy body products from trusted sources, you can rest assured that there’s no formaldehyde or other creepies in it!
  3. No animal testing: Not only is it wrong, but there is no need to when you know the artisan soapmaker, trust their ingredients and promise to not test on animals.
  4. Support local producers: Instead of giving your money to large multinational corporations whose products might be made by wage slaves on the other side of the world or at least in a large laboratory or factory, provide someone in your locale the opportunity for meaningful work by supporting what they do! Plus it’s going to be a more personal, better product; you can talk to them about how they make it, what’s in it and where the ingredients come from.

I learned in my herbal classes that what you put on your skin is just as important as what you eat. Our skin is our largest organ and readily absorbs whatever comes into contact with it. With this sentiment in mind, I am mindful to use totally natural body products whenever possible. Another great thing about real soap is that it is naturally emollient – it moisturizes the skin. Two sisters also incorporate medicinal herbs like calendula and lavender into their soaps, which not only help heal the skin, but smell amazing too,  not with artificial fragrances, but with homegrown herbs.

Sure, you might have to deal with a little more soap scum by using real soap, but that’s what the baking soda is for! With all of the vital reasons to stick with real soap, there’s no reason to support industrial soaps or products. And if you’re in Central Florida come out to the Clermont Farmers’ Market to support Aurora (and me!). Her sister, Sierra, is near Umpqua, Oregon, so if you’re there you can find their soap. If you’re somewhere else, see if there’s a small-batch natural soap maker near you, or support these lovely sisters and order from them online. If you’re really getting into the local, diy spirit, make your own soap. I’ve heard it’s not that hard, and it’s definitely on my crafty to do list!

The market April 7th was wonderful. The weather was finally cooperating and gave us a glorious sunny day. I sold or bartered all of my produce and came home empty coolered! And that’s what I love to see! Thank you to all my regulars (and new folks) who came out to get your kale and support me doing what I love – growing delicious, fresh, nutritious vegetables!

Be Like Florida, Green for the Holidays

With Thanksgiving behind us and now officially in December, we are certainly in the thick of the holiday season. My family always makes fun of me for being a scrooge as I loudly and repeatedly state throughout December, “I hate Christmas!” My statement is especially cantankerous when I overhear Christmas music in public places in November. Don’t get me wrong, I love the family time, delicious food, happy moods, and the other altruistic parts of the season. It’s the consumerism that ruins it for me. I love giving; I don’t love feeling obligated to purchase something for everyone I know, hearing on NPR what the retail market feels the buying power of “consumers” will be this season, and other crazy-talk such as people getting mowed over to get into certain enormous multinational corporations.

However, I’m beginning to try to embrace the season again with a new frame of mind. Instead of being ill-tempered throughout the last month of the year, I want to enjoy the cool weather and change in seasons; utilize the additional time spent inside by reading, craft-making, knitting, kitty cuddling and learning new skills; enjoy making useful gifts for my loved ones; and maybe even listen to one of the only Christmas songs I like: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. (I’m always the gray cloud.)

Wednesday and Arthur love cuddling when it’s cold out.

Luckily, I feel that I have lots of support in this relearning process. I’ve come across so many folks that feel the same way I do: Consumption has gotten way out of hand, and it’s time to take a step back. The Internet is littered with inspirational ways to have a handmade, waste-free holiday! I loved this article from Apartment Therapy about keeping it green during the holidays. Also, check out Adbusters’ Buy Nothing Christmas, which encourages celebrating non-material joy, inner peace, avoiding stress and saving money during the holiday season. A simple google search will yield hundreds of ideas for a green holiday season!

New Life

Since the first day after I left my job, I have truly felt like I am beginning a new life. Reflecting on my metamorphosis, I’ve realized so much change is happening all at once: I quit my 8-to-5, I’ve moved out-of-state, my lifestyle has transitioned from a static home to a more nomadic existence, I’m going from a decent paycheck to sweat equity, long hours indoors give way to time spent in Nature, and, most importantly, I am finally beginning to pursue my passion rather than biding my time. There are so many amazing changes!

Before I left Richmond, I reread most of Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I am by no means as breakneck as the protagonist in that book, but many of the idealistic sentiments expressed in the book make my soul sing…

By then Chris was long gone. Five weeks earlier he’d loaded all his belongings into his little car, and headed west without an itinerary. The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything. He had spent the previous four years, as he saw it, preparing to fulfill an absurd and onerous duty: to graduate from college. At long last he was unencumbered, emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, a world in which he felt grievously cut off from the raw throb of existence.

Driving west out of Atlanta, he intended to invent an utterly new life for himself, one in which he would be free to wallow in unfiltered experience. To symbolize the complete severance from his previous life, he even adopted a new name. No longer would answer to Chris McCandless; he was now Alexander Supertramp, master of his own destiny.  -Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Naming my life’s theme for this year “Getting Dirty” emphasizes my need to “wallow in unfiltered experience” and reunite with “the raw throb of existence.” Eschewing material excess has helped me to begin to reinvent myself, to show physically what is important, and I can’t wait to see how I change as I progress on my journey.

All of my belongings before packing up for Florida + bike + Arthur & Wednesday.

These types of sweeping change happen periodically in my life, whether it be unconsciously self-driven or opportunistic collisions of cosmic events. It is as if I find a cozy place to learn and watch and grow, and then, all of a sudden, I must act on what I have absorbed; I can no longer sit still and live as I did before. “There are times in life to be thoughtful and cautious. Then there are times when the only way to learn is to jump in and ‘go for it,’ take the mistakes as the lesson, call for help when you need it, look in books when you can,” as Shannon Hayes describes this urge.

These bouts of change must have something to do with my need to live in alignment with my values. Maybe I am one of “the ones who [doesn’t] have the option of camouflaging [my] individuality: [I’m] just uncontrollably [myself].” (Sasha Cagen, Quirkyalone) In my opinion, while needed for a fulfilling life, living in radical alignment with my beliefs and passions is most definitely the harder path.

The process of maturing out of this conformity and into a state of ‘cultural consciousness’ commonly leads to a disconnection between some members of the family and community. This schism happens as individuals struggle to choose between normative behaviors and expectations, and finding a way to be ‘true to themselves.’ And it can be painful. Those who choose to align themselves with their values typically experience a sense of isolation from anyone else whose outlook is defined by conventional cultural codes.  –Shannon Hayes, Radical Homemakers

Why is it so hard to break free of a life that’s good enough to pursue the life we truly long for? We like to think these things are complicated, but the root cause is pretty simple: change is hard, so we tend to put it off until it becomes urgent. When the time comes to change, it becomes an overpowering presence; something that must be resolved one way or another.  –Chris Guillebeau

The time of learning is seldom free from pain and questioning. But from these experiences and what they can teach us, we are ready to learn. We all enjoy the easy times when the sailing is smooth, when all is well, when we are feeling no pain. And these periods serve a purpose. They shore us up for the lessons which carry us to a stronger recovery, to a stronger sense of ourselves.  -Karen Casey, Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women

Riding the waves of change is always a precarious challenge. I find the most calming, helpful coping mechanism is to have a clear goal in mind. To avoid settling and taking the safe way during the scary times, I envision where I am going and where I want to be to keep myself moving in the right direction, wherever it may take me. Here is to the perpetually renewing chance for fresh beginnings!


Today I’d like to share a little background about the name of my blog, Around the Mulberry Bush. First, as you might have guessed, I LOVE mulberries!

And, it just seems like they keep reappearing in my life and conjure, for me, pleasant memories and warm feelings. My dad grew a tiny mulberry tree down a path through the woods in my yard as kid. There were a few near my house in Jacksonville, FL, where I played with the neighborhood kids and showed them the yumminess that was growing in their backyard.

I’ve spent lazy afternoons climbing the trees, munching the fruit and pondering life. And I’ve made all kinds of tasty creations with them:


mulberry pie

mulberry mead

I’d like for the spirit of fun and sweetness I get when I think of mulberries to infuse my work here, and for the blog to be a source of rejuvenation whenever I come here to write.

“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover I that I had not lived.” – Thoreau

Hello New Life

Next week is my final four days at my public health job. While I am very grateful for this learning and working opportunity, I think the most valuable lesson I garnered from my time there was about myself: I am not a cubicle person. I need personal contact, stimulation, variety and adventure. My current vision of my future includes an assortment of ventures to support my needs. I want to do freelance nutrition writing for magazines and online content; I want to grow produce and make herbal remedies for my community farmers’ market; I want to help people achieve their health goals by doing personal nutrition consulting; I want arts and craftiness back in my life.

I initially read about voluntary simplicity and purposeful living in college. When I turned 25 one week ago, I decided it is time to take these philosophies, which I hold close to my heart, seriously, to practice them and not just dream about them. Leaving a secure job in this economy is nothing short of scary. However, I like to think of myself as a thrifty, creative and frugal person. And I am immensely lucky to have enough freedom to make this life-altering choice. People keep asking me if I have another job lined up. My answer is, “Well… I have an internship!” (The closest “legitimate-sounding” description for a series of dates with different farms across southeast USA.) Their next question is, “Does it pay?”

I’m realizing that I am developing a mindset much different from that of the average person. I don’t want to worship or rely on money for my needs. I know this sounds naive, but it is indeed my goal.

I wrote the following in a journal entry on my birthday:

Something about the nice, round number 25 makes me feel that a lot of good things will develop this year. Many also feel that 2012 is an auspicious time for change. My friends gave me a blue tiger eye stone, which they said protects you on your travels and wards off anxiety. I will keep it close. “This year I’ll try to only listen to myself.”* This year I want to peel back the layers. I have set myself on a righteous path of rigorous self-actualization. I will work to shed the ego this year, to dig deeper into who I am and who I want to be. This is the year of Getting My Hands Dirty. I believe this is the year I’ll find my life’s calling. I will also reconnect with those closest to me. I have not felt “home” in a long time. I will regain that this year. I will delve into my spiritual side and release practices and thought patterns and controls which are no longer serving me. I will become very comfortable in the Now and the path I am on.

This quotation from Chris Guillebeau planted a seed of deep pondering in me, especially the part I italicized: “Sometimes, we let people take over our lives by entrusting judgement to them. We assume other people know better than we do. We assume other people’s priorities are more important than ours. The answer is to stop believing these things… You begin by deciding for yourself what success looks like. Set your own rules. Be clear on what you want and how you’re going to get it.”

It reminds me of the Thoreau quotation that I can confidently say, when I read it, changed my life: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” I think it was when I read these words, I believe via Guillebeau, that I decided to leave my job to pursue my passion instead. Really, what better time than now? What better moment to start doing the things you have always dreamed of doing than now?

As I prepare to leave Richmond, I am parting with a lot of my “stuff” (non-essential, useless, excess). I think this has a lot to do with my shedding process and leaving my old self behind to better uncover my potential and to embrace my new mindset. I remember a time when I felt weighed down by stuff, when all my stuff was an excuse not to jet off somewhere. Changing location is a perfect opportunity to raise the anti-materialism bar. Through this move, I have gotten rid of many things that I never would have if I wasn’t moving – like my kitchen table! Yet, with each item I remove, I’m happier with my space. So open and uncluttered! It is really true that keeping only the most special, bare essentials multiplies their sentimentality and functionality. I now eat at my desk which I moved to the breakfast nook.

“Be willing to live on less and you’ll buy yourself priceless freedom.” – Colleen Kinder

Carpe diem!

*The Lawrence Arms

Four Guilty Pleasures I Need to Quit

Since life is our ultimate learning experience, and there are always improvements to be made, I’ve decided to compile a list of habits and choices in my life that I would like to change – two short and two long term.

Short Term:

1. Stop thrifting.

A few of the many bags of give-aways I have made in preparation for moving.

“Stop thrifting!?” you say, “I thought thrifting was good.” Yes, generally going to your local thrift store for something you need is a great way to reduce waste, support the local economy, and save money. However, my guilty pleasure and the verb “thrifting,” is sort of a synonym to “shopping.” You know, the “I don’t have anything to do, so I’m going to go to the mall to distract myself and look at the pretty things and probably buy something I don’t need” thing. The mystery of the hunt while thrifting adds a bonus lure – finding the jewel in the ruff. That added excitement is quite addictive. I must admit, I’m pretty decent at walking out of the thrift store without buying anything should nothing call out to me; however, the principle I need to face is that I am still killing time (and cash) seeking things I don’t need. Every cute thing I bring home that I don’t really need is a backward step from the intentional, minimalist life I am trying to create. So, in the spirit of intentional living, no more going to the thrift store without a mission!

 2. Chuck shampoo & facial soaps.

I picked up this tip from my favorite blogger, vegan chef, and ultimate lifestyle role model, Joy Tienzo. As someone with fine hair (I wouldn’t quite call it “thin”), and a definite T-zone of oily skin on my face, I am excited to see how the no-poo method works for me. Joy writes that she didn’t like the baking soda/apple cider vinegar method mentioned on a lot of sites, so I’m going to follow her advice to condition once weekly and scalp massage daily first.

For my skin, the supply and demand explanation of bodily oils definitely makes sense. The more you soap up your face, the more oil your skin produces. We need to reach a natural balance instead of a roller coaster. I have experienced mild to moderate acne and oily skin since puberty, and I’m hoping the oil cleansing method will finally (I’ll be 25 next week for goddess’ sake!) help my skin find the balance I’ve been screwing up the past decade or more with various soaps, astringents, topical medications, and antibiotics. Since I eat a fairly healthy diet, I think for me acne is mostly hereditary – which is the most frustrating part. However, I refuse to believe the only way to cure my acne is through medications. I am determined to find out what will make my skin naturally clear, whether it be through eliminating an irritating food (gluten? dairy? peanut butter?), or discontinuing stripping the natural oils from my skin which have been causing it to overproduce oils for years. I plan to make an antimicrobial oil concoction with coconut oil as the base and a few drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils to use for a nightly cleanser. To be honest, adding moisture to my skin resonates with me much more than soaping. More and more lately, I’ve been feeling like I am doing my skin a disservice by going to bed with it squeaky clean and dry. I imagine my new regimen will not only lead to less maintenance but probably discourage wrinkles as I get older, unlike the constant drying of the skin caused by using soaps. I believe in the infinite wisdom of my body and its ability to heal itself, so I feel like any treatment I impose on myself that goes against my body’s natural processes is counterproductive. I think that’s why no-poo makes sense to me.

I laugh at myself for this new adventure because I recently bought two “natural” products on impulse. They were shampoo and facial wash.

I’m not saying anything bad about these companies and they are certainly better than the average chemical stuff, but I believe we need to be aware of greenwashing these days during which “green” is hip and trendy. Don’t think that advertisers and big companies aren’t going to capitalize on this trend in order to make money, usually selling us stuff we do not need. While I have been very happy with these products for what their jobs are, and at the time of purchase I didn’t yet know about the no-poo and oil-wash methods, I was definitely a victim of impulse buying with the facial wash and shampoo.

So, I’m going to give no-poo and oil wash a whirl and report back with my results to see if my impulse buys truly were unneeded.

Long term:

1. Driving a car.

I recently paid off my car loan after two and a half years. Woo! I officially don’t owe anyone anything! Except my parents I guess since they birthed me and let me live in their house rent-free for 18 years. However sweet it is to not have a car payment every month anymore, there is still a little voice in my head saying I shouldn’t own a car at all. Insurance payments, gas, pollution, military-industrial complex, carcinogens in car materials… the list goes on and on. My current travel plans for wwoofing SE USA include traveling by car; however, I see myself possibly doing some wwoofing in South America next year. This may require selling the car. My dream is to one day live in a utopian cooperative community where there would be a shared car. My primary mode of transportation would be feet and bike, and folks in the community could reserve the car for special occasions or large hauls. And it would be a veggie mobile. *Sigh*

2. Disposables and recyclables.

Since I am going to be a farming intern for the rest of this year, I hope I don’t have to wait too long to fulfill this goal because luckily, homegrown food has no packaging! In the previously described dream community I plan to find or create in the future, all our food will be homegrown = goodbye need to dispose or recycle! Love the correction: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse then Recycle.

In the mean time, I try to reduce the packaging I consume by supporting the local farmers’ markets which are just popping up for the spring season here in Richmond – lovely, buying in bulk, and choosing less-packaged products. By buying more produce instead of processed semi-foods, you can cut your disposable packaging by a LOT!

Off I go to do my scalp massage!

On Simplicity

I was reading through some of my first posts from the original Raw Summer back in 2007, and was reminded about how I’d dedicated my cleanse to not only my body, but to my surroundings as well. I’d proclaimed to get rid of excess stuff and simplify my belongings and life. How fitting to revisit now, as I transition to life on the road.

As mentioned briefly before, I am planning to be a farming intern this summer through WWOOF. Therefore, I am currently working on giving away, selling, and donating most of my “stuff.”* I am trying to pare down to the essentials. I feel like minimizing is a constant process in my life, evident by the fact that I write about it often and it always seems to be needing done again and again. I don’t consider myself a hoarder by any means, but tend to like pretty (though usually cheap or free) things like thrifty home decor. Nevertheless, it is stuff I will need to purge in order to travel as freely and easily as I desire. My friend gave me a great compliment by saying, “You are already pretty minimalist,” in response to my proclamation that I wanted to be. However, the more I learn, the more I develop the idea, the more I garner inspiration from others, the more I up the anti on my own simplicity goals.

So, once again, I find myself wanting to shed unnecessary “stuff” from my life as well as nourish my body more fully through raw foods and the avoidance of negative nutrition. And it is spring. Here in Richmond the wind is blowing and the flowers and trees are in full bloom. Nature seems to be damp and fuzzy. Soon, summer will begin my adventure of living off the land, learning to be more self-sufficient, experiencing real food production first hand, and listening to the stories from those who know it best.

I’ll finish this post by sharing some very inspiring quotations I came across today on simple and non-conformist living:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” – Seth Godin, Tribes

“Life is indeed bloody short and no one is going to give you a gold star for playing it safe.” – Almost Fearless

* By “stuff” I mean clutter, excess, non-essentials, anything that makes me feel bad or obligated, or doesn’t serve me as a useful and productive item, anything I haven’t used in a long time, anything I’m keeping out of “sentimentality” but serves no purpose. “Stuff” is weight, baggage, guilt, and blockades to Freedom.