Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Planting Season

Thinking of the planting season.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thinking in the round


Thinking, thought or thunk (joke with Addison).  This past summer I was inspired to build a round building (you will have to read the full post to find out what it is used for) and while taking a rest inside I noticed something different.  The flow of energy was different than in the typical square or rectangles that we live in.  It was as if my energy could flow without obstruction and return back to me unaltered.  Was I thinking about thinking?  Was I aware of awareness?  By sitting in the round, I now had the ability to see the thoughts attached to my sense of self and observe them for what they are, only thoughts.  I could watch my thoughts and how I become attached to them.  My mind grasping for something in the past to predict the future or wanting things different than they are now.  Now I could start to see the thoughts for what they really are, only mere constructs created by my ego with little basis in reality.  Can I let go, to free myself from attachments to my sense of self, let go of my ego?  If I am able to  think about my ego then my ego is not me, and I am not defined by it nor do I need to gather more "stuff" to be me.  Simplify the within and the outside will follow.


The building is now an outhouse, and a great place to sit and think.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The focus of attention

Today my attention is drawn to snow finally falling from the sky and the peaceful sounds that come with the years first snow (including the laughter of children).   Recently my studies and meditation have been on how we has humans control our attention, and how when we loose control of that attention we tend towards problems, and can our personal/environmental/social/political problems be from a mis-direction of our attention and if so, can the solution only be found when we make an formal intention to direct our attention back to where our attention should be.  (That was a long sentence with a lot of "ands")
How do we as humans get ourselves into any situation, environmental, social, missing a turn when driving, to whacking our finger with a hammer.  I believe it comes down to the focus of attention.  Most of the time our attention is on the task at hand but once our mind finds the task routine it wanders off to find something else to pursue and wham-o we end up with a sore finger.  Humans have been so caught up in our own survival for so long that our global attention is constantly diverted away from the damage we are doing.  We are at a point where things are getting pretty shaken up.

The whole globe is shook up, so what are you going to do
      when things are falling apart?
You're either going to become more fundamentalist
      and try to hold things together,
or you're going to forsake the old ambitions and goals
      and live life as an experiment
      making it up as you go along.
                                            Pema Chodron

How do we focus our attention and "live life as an experiment" and get out of our fundamentalist thinking???

We need to get control of our attention.  Our attention to everyday details.  When we walk, we walk and when we sit, we sit.  When we are with someone, we are truly with them.  Now, this is not easy, but I believe we can do it.  We can sit with each other and embrace our fundamentalist views with compassion and honesty and together choose to direct our attention to that new experiment.  We may need to make it up as we go, but any new journey requires this.  We cannot expect to walk a new path and know what lies ahead for us, but if we take that path with compassion and non-judgment, hand in hand with others we will will never be alone.  Each new moment will unfold before us and we can savor its beauty and wonder with an open heart, and see each individual snowflake as it graces or terrestrial footing which grounds us in our humanity. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Change of mind and heart

The last post was meant to be a transition to a new blog and site.  I have struggled with this as I could not leave behind what this blog has been and done.  So I have decided to continue here and not abandon.  This blog started out as a  story of our transition to simple living and the construction of our shelter.  The problem is, a shelter can become so much more and ours has.  What I did not understand four years ago was that the thought process that we used to construct this beautiful shelter could be described in one word.


This word like the words simple living have been overused and commercialized, but the essence and the definition of this word has rung true for thousands of years.  This simple word has guided many individuals and entire societies toward both inner peace and global peace.  By its very definition (it has many) it is a non-judgmental compassionate view grounded in the present moment that can be a beacon of light in our darkest days.  So now when someone says how did we build our house?  I can say mindfully.

So where is this blog going to go?  I hope down a path that can bridge the ideas of simple living, health and community, but whatever path it takes I hope that I can do it with my full efforts on being mindful and in full awareness of what is good in me and society.

Here are some words that motivated me to start posting to this blog again.

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
  Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now.
        You are not obliged to complete the work,
           but neither are you free to abandon it."

Rabbi Tarfon, The Talmud

A smile to anyone that reads this blog


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Turning Point

How to end a blog?  In the spirit of impermanence this blog has to end at some point.  I have been writing and posting for 2.5 years now, documenting my thoughts and data on the house.  We have maintained a stable set of data and it is time to transition from a construction project into a farming project.  The final data point is this...

Energy costs are $0.88 a day and one cord of self sustaining wood (dead, dying or downfall) a year.

So theres the data and as you can see from the blog I have interjected some of my thoughts and opinions so here is my final thoughts....

"Even our scientists can see that there is no technological fix, no amount of computers, no magic bullet that can save us from population explosion, deforestation, climate disruption, poison by pollution, and wholesale extinction of plant and animal species.  We are going to have to want different things, seek different pleasures, pursue different goals than those that have been driving us and our global economy."  What we need is "a great turning of human consciousness."  Joanna Macy

This is not all doom and gloom, I have seen and feel this shift coming.  We have to look at environmentalism from a whole new point of view.  A view that holds the same passion we place in our spirituality.  Every religion makes references to protecting nature and providing for those in our society that are in need.  We need this spiritual shift and awakening to make the difference for all creatures on this planet.  Please keeping doing all the little things, but fundamentally change your life and be the change you want to see.  Look deep within and be completely honest about what needs to be done.  Forget what the science supports or does not support.  When you strip away all that science or religion teaches you about a beautiful flower what is it that deeply moves you.  As Jack Kornfield writes in After the Ecstasy the Laundry "this transformation is not automatic.  In every area of the mandala of awakening we need consciously to face our conditioning and habits."  Grab hold of your habits and shake them loose.  Challenge your thinking and be completely honest with yourself.  Make the very hard internal commitments to change, but above all hold compassion close to your heart and spread joy to all that you meet.

A smile and a bow to everyone.


New blog coming about our farm.  Check back soon I will post the link.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Compassion and Simplicity

These two words came up during a long drive back to Maine.  We were discussing with the children who is more important - President Obama or the check out clerk at the grocery store.  We realized (and thank goodness children did) that both have value and neither has less value than the other (even if someone does not have a job they still have value).  However, if we want someone who can run the country President Obama might be the better choice but for running the check out computer, hands down the grocery store clerk.  So each person is very important but for different reason and no one is any less important than the other (I am sure that President Obama could learn the register and the clerk could also do well in a political role).  But where we ended up was a discussion on compassion.  To me, compassion is more than placing yourself in someone else's shoes.  It involves really trying to understand that persons point of view and allowing yourself to feel the emotions which come from that understanding.  When we strive for simplicity, it is a quest of compassion for ideals and concepts that are known and unknown to us.  I can feel compassion for my impact on my local ecology but I will never know what my impact may be on someone or something on the other side of the world.  I may know my immediate impact but what about the future implications. I guess the idea of linking compassion and simplicity, returns to a understanding of being mindful.  Mindful of all our actions, great or small.  We may still choose to do something, but at least we have taken the time to contemplate compassion around our decision.

So I am announcing a new political party

The Compassion Party

Let me know if you want to attend the convention???


Monday, November 1, 2010

Margaret Mead

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does"

I came across this quote again the other day and it touched my heart.  Every day I meet people or see things that embrace the idea that it all starts with each person.  I hold out hope that small groups of committed citizens will help to heal our communities and world.  These small groups looking out for each other and standing to support each other in times of need.  Live simply so that others my simply live (Helen Nearing).  Hold your interactions with each other sacred and hope for the interactions of the future.  Slow down and see what you may have missed.  Walk at 1/3 your regular speed, Talk at 1/3 your regular speed, Think at 1/3 your regular speed, but love with all your heart.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Days are shorter and soon solstice will arrive

I love this time of year.  The raining down of acorns and leaves.  The animals getting all fuzzy and storing food away for the winter.  The cool fall days that seem to be just on the cusp of a frosty wonderland.  We just had our first soft frost, but I prefer the first real hard frost, when you walk out in the morning after being all warm in bed and take a deep breath in and feel the cool air going all the way to your core.  This is the time of the year when the building and growing stops and we transition to more cerebral pursuits.   A time of the year to rest for a bit before the darkness sets in and we all hunker down for the winter.  I like the break, it gives me time to plan next years garden, expand my knowledge and cozy up with the family by a warm fire.   I recently returned from a conference that was all about using the mind to help heal the body.  I think that winter time is a good time to focus on this.  A restful healing time to restore ones vitality in preparation for the next growing season.  Nature seems to know this and humans seem to have forgotten this.  I plan on doing a whole bunch of healing this winter.  I am planning on a good tune up of my mind, body and spirit.  With these three in balance next summer is looking to be a bountiful year.

Now for the house stuff
It is now October 20th and we have yet to turn on the heat or need a fire to heat the house.  The house temp has stayed between 66 and 73 degrees and we have at times needed to open some windows to cool the place off.  After collecting data for 2 years, I think we have shown that you do not need to have 1ft thick walls, fancy systems or new power plants.  We have the technology to live greener right now.  Through conservation, good construction and mindful consumption our society can protect the only home we have.


I am available for lectures or teaching please feel free to email me at bensimpleliving(at)

Monday, September 20, 2010

The middle way

Can all the little things we do save the planet????

There is a long list of "green behaviors" that we are told help the earth: change our light bulbs, shop local, avoid toxins, eat organic, car pool, take the bus, buy second hand (Michelle really scored the other day on an organic cotton Patagonia dress for $4.99), but will it really make a difference. Or do we have to accept the plant as is?

I don't know if the current green trends will change the world, but we can change the world with green thoughts and actions.   I have never liked arguments about who is greener or what is better for the environment.  How each of us lives our life, is our own personal decision and I am not the one to judge how someone chooses to be green.   From my view I am choosing to be as light on the earth as I can.  I am choosing to show my children how to respect and have reverence for our great mother.  I am choosing my path as it is because that is and it is not because that is not.  Being green is not about two choices or the lesser of two evils, we have to move beyond that discussion and find the middle way.  My point of view is just that, a point, if I move to another point I will have a different view.

My own actions may not stop the climate (or they might) from changing, but my current behavior and actions will directly influence how my children will live in the future.  As I have blogged in the past "I cannot change my past carbon footprint, but will do everything I can to change my children's".  Some people have made statements that there is only a small fraction of global citizens making green choices and that in order to affect the change that is needed that fraction needs to be significantly larger (like all the world).   I believe that a small fraction of people making a calculated consciousness shift can bring about the change needed to make a real difference.  That rumbling sound we hear in our future is not the waves of the rising oceans but the sound of the middle way racing out of our collective consciousness to lead us to compassionate living for not only our earth but our fellow beings.

We live on the edge of a new era.  An era in which we cooperate with all earthly beings, accept an economy which does not grow at great neck speed, design and build with compassion, live within our means, share our joys and comfort each other in times of sorrow.  An era where we all know our neighbors and where words of moderation and compassion guide us to mutual understanding and acceptance down the middle way.


Monday, August 9, 2010

McDonalds and a Mud Earth Bread Oven (warning sarcastic posting)

The other day after giving a talk on active solar and simple living I had to run to the hardware store.  On my return trip it was bumper to bumper traffic backed up for over 2 miles.  What could have caused such a back up??  Maybe a major accident, road construction, Obama in town.  No, the grand opening of a McDonald's, Gas Station and a Bank all in a new building (a perfectly good near empty one was right next door).  This grand opening was very important, so important that they stationed a police officer with lights flashing in the middle of the road.  This is a significant watershed event because now you can drive from Portland to Damariscotta and stop at a McDonald's every 15 or so miles  (after eating there you will most likely be hungry again in 15 miles).  What I also found amazing, is that in this one big building we find the three big troubles our country is facing;  unhealthy eating, over consumption of non-renewable resources and a financial institution.  So what is a person to do.  I could have set up a protest, wrote letters or blogged about it, but that would not have made a difference.  What I did was have a wonderful mid-summer party with about 30 people, shared a local vegetable meal and the next morning built a mud earth bread oven.

This oven cost me nothing, uses no fossil fuels, and cooks food that is good for the soul and body.  In addition I had the pleasure of seeing 6 children and 2 adults working together to build and learn.  Every time a group of people gets together to do something like celebrate the mid summer, eat a local meal together or get their hands dirty building an oven our society takes another little step in countering the drive to consume more.  

We cooked our first two loaves tonight, from our own made up bread recipe.  Its not hard, most of the world does this every day just to survive.  

Peace and build a mud oven (just don't cook a big mac in it)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Local challenge

We are now 5 days into our eat and buy local.  So far so good.  Thought we would have a problem with toilet paper, but Seventh Generation is a Vermont company.  Had to start to think of alternatives to TP, but luckily was able to stop before any implementation.  This eat and buy local is a really cool experiment that I hope we can incorporated into our life.  We are definitely saving money in that impulse buying is gone.  By having to consider where or how something is made causes you to pause for a moment to consider do I really need this item.  A new term thanks to Radical Homemakers

Extractive Economy - What we have now

Life Serving Economy -
1. Respect and care for the community of life
2.  Ecological integrity
3.  Social and economic justice
4.  Democracy (true), nonviolence and peace

"our wealth is sunshine and water, not fossil fuels or other nonrenewable resources, embrace the principles of social justice and non-exploitation, and agree that our exchange of dollars must not come at the expense of someone else, whether they are local or on the other side of the planet."

Hope to see any readers at Shelter this Saturday.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Photo

The gardens are in bloom and making vegetables.   The house and grounds are really starting to develop.  We continue to put any waste vegetable matter back into the soil and keep decreasing the amount of "lawn" to plant food.

We have both high bush and low bush blue berries planted and we are  looking forward to a little fruit next year.  

We have also set a new challenge this month.  We are only going to buy things that are made in New England.  We have just started and all ready it feels right.  As we continue to try and extricate ourselves from the corporate economy and engage with only local economies it feels like a more sustainable way to live.  In addition we are starting a veggie swap soon.  This is where you can bring your extra vegetables and trade them for ones that you may need.  No need to collect any taxes on this as there is no net income (a carrot for a potato) and  5% of a squash is just the stem.  

I am reading a new book called "Radical Homemakers" by Shannon Hayes.  This is a must read for anyone who is looking to "Reclaim domesticity from a consumer culture".  Now that we are starting to step away from consumerism and can now see back a little I realize how unhealthy it can be.  People are bombarded with advertisements saying they need the latest greatest thing-a-ma-bob and when they cannot get it they are told they are not worthy.  When they do get it, there is good chance it will break or the next latest and greatest will come out.  This is a never ending cycle of want and greed that can be mind boggling and from my experience leads only to depression and feelings of self loathing.  In addition, on every cycle of the wheel the corporations siphon off a few more of a persons money (aka time) getting wealthier every minute.  All hope is not lost as as we transition to a local economy that require less stuff so that we can keep more of our time (aka money) and spend it on raising our children and making those deep social connections that we all need.

Eat local

I am giving a talk at Shelter Institute this Saturday August 7th.  Check their website for details.   

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I am back, now with high speed

We finally had to break down and get high speed internet.  We tried dial up, but most web pages now are written for high speed.  We tried using the library, but they were either closed or we never had enough time.  So we have connected to the world of high speed.

House update:

  • Garden is in full bloom and producing veggies.
  • Squash and Pumpkins taking over the world
  • Down to 4 guinea hens
  • Solar systems are working better than expected
  • Blueberry's, elderberry's and our apple stick are still alive
  • House is running on about $0.88 a day (heat, lights and pool)
Personal update:
  • Recently gave a talk at FW Horch
  • Planning a talk for the Common Ground Fair
  • Continuing the quest for a simple life and extricating myself from the consumer corporate world
To quote from my recent reading -  Radical Homemakers

"By rebuilding our home lives according to values of social justice, ecological sustainability, and family and community security, we begin the process of dismantling the extractive economy and creating in its place a life-saving economy that enables us to meet our needs while thriving in harmony with our earth and spirits."

I will post photos soon.  We now have the ability.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It has been a long time.

            It has been a long while since my last post and so much has happened both in the big world and in our own little world.  The big thing is the oil “spill” in the gulf.  In my house a spill is when you accidentally knock over your milk, and we know that there is no sense crying over that, but when you purposefully drill a hole in the bottom of a perfectly good cup, insert a straw, then that straw breaks and the milk leaks all over the place, that’s something to cry over.
            I wrote a talk recently about how I was the cause of the stock market crash.  (I being the collective I and not the personal I).  When the first reports of the spill came out, I was taken back and reminded that we all shoulder a little blame for this spill.  Everybody is going to sue BP over this and the fingers are already pointing both directions in the circle of fault.  We all have contributed to this problem by demanding cheap oil.  We have created a demand in which it is now profitable (subsidized) to drill in water over one mile deep.  Had this leak been on land or in shallow water this thing would have been stopped the next day.  What we are witness to is two things.  First is another example to support the end of easily obtainable oil (peak oil) and second is that once addicted the addict will increase risky behavior to get a fix.  Why else would we drill for oil in a place that we cannot even shut off the valve?  Over and over just like the addict we ignore the warning signs and then when it is to late we wonder how we got into this mess.   Enough about the bad and onto the good.

            Our house has been published in a magazine called Design New England.

The  article is well written by William Morgan.   Although there are a couple of minor technical errors, over all it is a really great article.  The other good things are the garden is going in, blueberrys, elderberrys and asparagus are planted and it is almost building season again.  This year’s projects are a garden fence, small woodworking shop and small barn for goats.  We had the sawyer back and sustainably harvested 1500 board feet of pine.  I will post some progress photos as I get going.  In addition I have several speaking engagement in the works and will post these once I have more details. 

            Hope the world is well

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The most useless item ever invented

I recently came into possession of the most useless things ever created by a man or a women.  It is toy which electronically simulates popping bubble wrap...

Let me say that again....

It electronically simulates popping bubble wrap.

This thing is a battery powered devices with a metal key chain.  It has 8 buttons on the front and a reset button on the back (Why you would need to reset this device is beyond me).  It does nothing but make the sound of bubble wrap popping.  My mistake, about every 40 pushes it makes a "random suprise sound".  If this is what humans are spending time inventing, designing, producing and using; then we as a species are really far down the road to extinction.

The best is the instructions which came with the device.

 "Play games with your friends! Pass the Pop Pop around with each person pressing a bubble.  First one to get surprise sound loses!"


"Do not 1) aim toy at anyone 2) hit anyone with toy 3) poke anyone with toy 4) swing toy at anyone 5) Do not stand on toy"

The last caution is listed because serious injury may result.  I am sorry if you own this toy and spend hours electronically simulating bubble wrap popping, but this kind of stuff needs to stop.  We as a society can not afford to waste the precious time we have and destroy our earth for "simulated bubble wrap popping".  I shudder at the number of these things that have been produced, sold and disposed of.

I am appalled that people in the world go without food, clean water, shelter and medicine; while others sit around and simulate bubble wrap popping.  I would love to hear the other side of the story on this device.  I would love to have someone argue with me that the world needs this device.

Scroll down if you would like to see what this useless thing looks like.

May my mind think pure thoughts, my mouth speak kind words and my heart always feel compassion.


PuchiPuchi bubble wrap...