13 Simple Ways to Add a Little More Peace to Your Day

Autumn leaf | Happy Simple Living blog

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… including you.” ~ Anne Lamott

We all have seasons in life when we are called upon to do challenging things. One of my dear girlfriends, who is a single working mom, faithfully visits her mother every Sunday–even though her mama no longer recognizes her. Another friend is launching a new business and caring for her toddler, all while recovering from breast cancer treatments and surgery.

My challenges feel decidedly puny by comparison:  Caring for our beloved, aging dog who frequently needs to go outside in the middle of the night. Parenting a wonderful teenager, who lost his dad earlier this year. Maintaining a great 1970’s house, where something breaks down weekly (this week: busted washing machine). Homework. E-mail. Deadlines. Long days. Embracing life with my ex’s large, lively Chocolate Lab, who likes to grunt nocturnally. (Note:  I’ve been waiting my whole life to gracefully weave the phrase “grunt nocturnally” in a sentence.) (P.S. Don’t you think The Nocturnal Grunters would be an excellent name for a rock band?)

The effects of a little too much on my plate and not quite enough sleep caught up with me this summer, and I could see it in my face, too — the weary smile, and dark circles under my eyes. I finally had to admit that I couldn’t just take my good health for granted during a demanding season of life. I realized I had to actively seek more peace and take care of my own health if I wanted to be strong and rise to these challenges.

These are some of the things I’ve tried that seem to help:

1.  Begin and end the day quietly and unplugged. In the morning I wake up an hour before my son, pour a cup of coffee and head for my favorite easy chair. I read a devotional, think and pray. Sometimes I meditate. Sometimes I write in my journal. Sometimes I just sit and watch the sun rise. It’s all good. At the end of the day, I love to read a book until I fall asleep. Nothing positive ever comes from being online first thing in the morning or last thing at night, so I don’t go there.

2. Speak and think words of peace. Wayne Dyer suggested saying these words every day: “I am well. I am content. I am at peace. I am at ease.” I wrote them on a card that I attached to my computer monitor so I see and repeat them daily. I also have favorite scriptures and quotes that I like to say aloud.

3. Batch e-mails, and write shorter replies. Probably just like you, I receive a lot of e-mails. I could spend a good part of every day answering e-mails, without accomplishing much of anything. Now I’m trying to take just two or three breaks a day when I answer e-mails, and not constantly click on the InBox throughout the day. Brevity is a good thing, so I’m trying to be more concise. I also like the old-school approach of picking up the phone and talking in person, instead of sending one more e-mail. I’ve even been known to send my clients hand-written postcards.

4. Accept some limitations. This is tough, because I don’t want to miss important events, especially gatherings for people I deeply care about. I frequently wish I could be two places at once, and I ask God often for help with priorities. All working parents know something about juggling and trying to balance everything, and sometimes we simply can’t do everything or be everywhere we wish we could.

5. Hire and ask for help. We could not live in this house without our lawn guy Kevin Lombardi, who cuts the grass so beautifully and cleans up the leaves in the autumn. Paying someone to help is easier for me than asking other people for help, but I’m trying to get braver.

6. Swish and swipe. The Flylady coined this term, which means simply to give a quick polish to a room each time you’re in there. I always feel more peaceful in a clean, tidy space — which is not to say that our house is always clean and tidy. But swishing and swiping helps.

7. Declutter and clear space. The less stuff we have, the less overwhelmed we feel, and the less time we have to spend cleaning and maintaining things. Minimizing means we have more open space and serenity in our homes. William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” We’re not there yet, but this is my ongoing goal and I give things away almost every week.

8. Write in a gratitude journal. Saying thanks changes my heart. Being glad for what we have and focusing on good things helps me stay centered. I love reading back over the entries I’ve jotted down over the years, too.

9. Do your own thing. When you have multiple responsibilities to many other people, I think it’s especially important to have something you do just for you. This might seem like an odd example, but I joined Toastmasters this year to practice public speaking and it’s been so much fun. I just finished my fourth speech, and I love the Zen element of forgetting about everything else that happens when we attempt something new. Plus I adore the people in our group, who are each working so hard to improve their skills.

10. Talk to someone. When I feel stuck, I love going and talking with our wonderful family counselor. She always helps me sort things out, and it’s like a spa day for my soul. My mom is the wisest woman I know, and I often turn to her when I need help. (Thank you, Mom. I love you.) My sweet sister and several dear friends are great at nonjudgmental listening, which is such a gift.

11. Write a Victory List. If you sometimes feel like you’re not doing enough, perhaps writing down your accomplishments throughout the month will be an encouragement. Here’s why and how I started a Victory List.

12. Do something good for your body and soul. Just for fun, I stopped at one of those chair massage stations the last time I was at the store and had a 15-minute massage. It was heavenly! Whether it’s a steam shave at the barber or a pedicure, do something nice for yourself occasionally and reap the benefits.

13. Take a walk. A middle-of-the-day walk is so therapeutic. It’s good exercise, the fresh air clears my head, and I often come back with a new idea or a solution to a problem.

How About You?

What do you do to maintain balance in your day and stay centered? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Here’s to more peace — in ourselves, in our families, and in our world.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

A Garden Where There Once Was None

New garden | Happy Simple Living blog

My son and I tackled a big project this summer. We had a vision to create a cool, shady spot under the trees for a small table and chairs.

The location was in a wild, overgrown area of the south side of the house that had always been a jumble of weeds and vines and bushes and sapling trees. Here’s the “before” photo:

 

New garden before | Happy Simple Living blog

On Demolition Day, my son used a handsaw to cut and clear all of the trees and bushes. I was his assistant, dragging and piling the branches. After several hours, much of the overgrowth was gone and a sense of the new garden begin to take shape. It was a very therapeutic day.

Later, we dug and cut and yanked out smaller stumps and roots. I spent many hours on my knees hacking at the hard clay soil, and began to sense a spiritual parallel.

So I started praying and asked God to clear out the deadwood and weedy, overgrown places in my heart. I asked for help to let go of some things that still weighed on me, and asked for healing of past hurts and disappointments.

At one especially difficult point during this time of hacking and introspection, the ground was so hard I felt like there must be a brick beneath my spade. And guess what?

 

Digging through clay soil | Happy Simple Living blog

There was a broken brick buried in the ground!

When the stumps and roots (and brick) were cleared, I asked for a renewal and refreshing of my spirit. I prayed for inner peace to foster quiet time and reflection, and a new place for creative ideas to grow.

A neighbor was giving away an eighth-ton of rock, so I loaded three buckets in the back of the Toyota and drove the four blocks to his house. Over three days, I made numerous trips carrying manageable buckets of gravel and spread it in the new place under the trees. It was just the right amount of stone.

We hung a string of lights overhead and a hummingbird feeder in a tree. A bright green metal table and chairs from Target fit right in the space, and a coleus plant added color.

 

Coleus plant | Happy Simple Living blog

 

Our dear friends Debbie and John brought us perennial shade plants in memory of my son’s dad and my former husband, Jose, who passed away this year. This is “Sea Heart:”

 

Sea Heart | Happy Simple Living blog

 

A stray hollyhock seed blew in and planted itself at the entrance of the garden,  where it bloomed with the showiest fuchsia blossoms all summer.

 

Hollyhock blossom | Happy Simple Living

 

The garden is such a peaceful place to drink coffee and listen to the birds and write in my journal.

 

new garden

 

Several friends visited throughout the summer, and the space was as cool and pleasant as I once dreamed it might be.

 

Friends visit our new garden | Happy Simple Living blog

 

The tiny space will always need maintenance. Vines try to creep back in, and weeds push up through the rocks.

But now there is a small garden flourishing in a place that was once neglected and overgrown, and I am so very grateful.

May you find a clearing amidst the noise, space to grow, and unexpected beauty in the days to come.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Happy Simple Money: An Interview with Steve and Jan Berger

Jan and Steve Berger

I’ve known Steve and Jan Berger for 11 years. I first met Steve, a writer, when I joined the Colorado Author’s League and he was the organization’s president. Over the years we’ve gotten to be friends, and last fall when we were at a gift show selling books together we started talking about finances. Steve and Jan told me they were retiring and enjoying life, and since they’re youngsters and both in the creative arts I wondered how they’d done it.

The Bergers have a shared philosophy about spending and an unusual way of saving money that has worked splendidly for them. I thought their story was fascinating and inspiring, and they generously agreed to let me share it with you.

First, a little background: Steve and Jan have been married for 39 years. Jan is a successful graphic artist, and Steve is a writer and author. His novels include acclaimed titles like Ursula’s Yahrtzeit Candle, The Fifth Estate and his newest mystery, Fat Chance. Jan designed the books’ striking covers.

The couple lives in a beautiful home in a Colorado community located between two state parks. They own an income-producing rental property, they live debt free, and are now comfortably retired. They are on the waiting list for the new Tesla 3, and are taking a cruise from Greece to Venice this fall.

In short, they live a good life.

Keep reading to find out some of the ways they’re worked together to build a solid financial foundation.

Jan and Steve Berger | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: As a couple, you seem to agree philosophically about how to best manage your finances. Since this is an area that many couples struggle with, can you share any insights?

A: We both believe in open communication about money. It’s like building a house; you have to be on the same page, or you’ll tear each other apart. It’s helpful to have shared goals and agree on a financial strategy, and trust is key.

Both of our parents came out of the Depression, and they influenced us to be thoughtful about spending and always save a percentage of our money for a rainy day. Being rich was never our goal, but we wanted to have enough.

Q: Can you describe your unusual system for saving money?

A: It’s simple, really.  We round up expenses to the nearest dollar, and we round down deposits. So if we spend $39.12 at the grocery store, we enter $40 in the check register. If we deposit $157.89, we add in $157.

We also put every “found cent” into the slush fund: birthday checks, tax refunds and refund checks all go into the kitty.

You’d be surprised how small increments of money, saved steadily over time, can grow.

(Here’s one of their actual checkbook registers, so you can see their actual process which includes credit card purchases as well as checks. When the statement arrives, the funds have already been set aside to make the payment:)

Checkbook register | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: If your checkbook register shows a different balance from what’s actually in the bank, how do you keep from getting confused?

A: Steve uses Quicken to track every penny, and reconciles the balances on a regular basis. We move the slush fund to an interest-bearing account periodically.

Q: Do you use credit cards?

A: Yes, but not in the typical way. We use no-fee, cash-back credit cards for every expense we can charge. Our current favorites are issued by American Express and FirstBank Visa. We pay the balance off every month and never accrue interest. We’ve found that a cash-back card is a better deal for us than cards that offer airline miles.

Q: What are some of your money-saving strategies?

A: We try to control recurring expenses. For instance, we installed solar panels when we could afford them so we won’t be at the mercy of the utility company that will continue to raise rates for the rest of our lives.

We’re also on the list for the Tesla 3, an all-electric car with a 200+ mile range priced in the mid- to upper-$30,000s. Available in late 2017, we will be able to charge the batteries off our household solar panels. We believe it is a given that oil prices will go up again. So we will be saving money, controlling expenses and, not insignificantly, helping the environment and contributing to the mitigation of climate change.

Again, as we could afford it, we’ve replaced almost every light in the house with LEDs, which has reduced electrical usage, leaving more generating power from the solar panels for our use and to go back into the grid until we get our Tesla; then we’ll use it to power its batteries.

We belong to Costco and purchase things like stationary and checks there. We also bought our refrigerator at Costco, after researching models and determining that they offered the best value.

We both like to cook, so we prepare most of our meals at home. We’re also fortunate that we’re in good health. We think part of this is due to reduced stress from not having to worry about money, which means not having to spend as much on healthcare, which means less stress.

Q: Do you ever use coupons?

A. Yes, but only on things we’d buy anyway. Using the same criteria, we also take advantage of sales.

Q: What is your philosophy about spending?

A:  We invest in quality and value. We use Consumer Reports to research every major purchase. We always save our receipts in case there’s a problem with something we buy.

We don’t go shopping to buy things and improve our moods. Doing this is hollow. It might bring very temporary enjoyment, but it doesn’t last. To get that feeling again, people just go out and buy again.

We prefer to buy what we need and take pleasure in its functionality, amusement (like some of the art we’ve splurged on), and lasting pleasure––because it works well, saves time and energy, is cost-efficient and reliable.

Q: What are some of the best things you’ve ever spent money on?

An antique, blue, Chinese rug for our living room after we went from carpet to hardwood. We both absolutely fell in love with it, but it was 2.5 times what we had mentally budgeted. We negotiated the price down 20%, which made it only 2 times more than our mental budget, but we had the money, so we bought it. We still enjoy it every day.

[Steve:] A few months ago, Jan saw an ad for a beautiful, expensive, ring. Half joking she said, ‘If you ever want to buy me jewelry (which we rarely do), you can get me one these rings.’ I tracked down where the ring is sold––Boulder–– and finagled a trip up there for fun and lunch. Our walk after lunch took us down the Pearl Street Mall to the only place in Colorado carrying that jeweler’s wares. You can guess the rest.

One of the best things we’ve done with money is to give Jan’s former boss, who was very good to us for more than twenty years, a gift card for $500. That made three people very happy at a time when she could really use the money.

Our other splurges include a couple of self-indulgent trips to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs in New Mexico, including massages, great food and a serene setting with nothing to do but relax and enjoy. Steve took Jan to Italy for one of her birthdays, Jan took Steve to Washington DC for one of his, and we took Steve’s dad on a trip to Hungary. We like to travel and consider it one of the best things to spend money on since the experiences last a lifetime, as the mother of one of our friends always said.

Steve Berger and Jan Berger | Happy Simple Living blog

Q: Any final thoughts?

A: To be honest, we’ve actually never though this much about what we do with money. We think it’s because we’ve adopted many of these practices as needed, not all at once, and just assimilated them into our lifestyle. We do consider ourselves very fortunate for many reasons, and don’t take our good fortune for granted or feel particularly exceptional for these material achievements. To us, money has always been a means, not an end.

Thank you, Steve and Jan, for generously sharing your money strategies and giving us insights into how you’ve made a comfortable life through shared goals, open communication and smart spending.

How About You?

Readers, does Steve and Jan’s advice resonate with you? Do you have advice to add about strategies that have worked for you, either as an individual or as a partner in a relationship or family?

Would you like to see more real-life stories about how people manage their money?

I always love hearing your thoughts and comments.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #2 – Go on a Home Scavenger Hunt

Pamper yourself during the January Money Diet

It’s only the second day of our money diet, and I’m already overwhelmed by your enthusiasm and goodness. I got goose bumps reading your comments as you embraced Challenge #1 yesterday. Giving 31 gifts is a big commitment, and I’m humbled and inspired by the stories and ideas you’re sharing. I hope you’ll continue posting about your experiences in both giving and receiving throughout the month.

We’ve committed to hanging on to our cash this month, but that doesn’t mean we need to live meagerly. In fact, I strongly believe that managing our money wisely is going to lead us to all sorts of abundance, blessings and adventures in 2016.

Find Your Hidden Treasures

On this first weekend of the January Money Diet, I encourage you to “shop” at home and spoil yourself with the things you have on hand. Now is the perfect time to go through the closets and drawers looking for those unused things we all tend to hold on to for Someday.

You might begin your home scavenger hunt with the bathroom cabinets; are there shampoo samples, fancy soaps, loofahs and pedicure kits hiding on the shelves? Gather them up and pamper yourself. You deserve it!

What about those specialty kitchen appliances and gadgets gathering dust? Let’s use our fondue pots and pasta machines and waffle irons this month, shall we?

Take inventory of your pantry and freezer, too; do you have any fancy, gourmet items or forgotten goodies lurking back in the shelves? Plan to enjoy those treats, clear some shelf space and save money on food this month.

What about unused craft and scrapbooking supplies? Home improvement materials? Fabric and notions? Yarn and knitting needles? Office supplies? Blank journals? January is a splendid month to take on a project using things you already have.

Take a look around the closets and drawers of your home, and you might find a treasure trove of good stuff just waiting to be used up and enjoyed.

After you’ve gone on a scavenger hunt around your home, will you post a few highlights in the comments section at the bottom of this page? You know we’re all just dying to hear what you unearth.

You’ll hear from me again on Monday, when we tackle meal planning to save money and time this month.

Until then, treat yourself to a long soak and use the scented bath salts. Get out the shaving brush and enjoy a nice shave. Burn the scented candles. Wear your silk pajamas. Play your music and dance!

Stay strong, steer clear of the mall, and enjoy this beautiful weekend.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Could Your Wallet, Keys or Purse Use a Spring Cleaning?

Oversized purse

A dear friend of mine went to the doctor because she was having chronic shoulder stiffness and back pain. The doctor was puzzled, finding no evidence of an injury or obvious cause for her ongoing pain. As my friend prepared to leave, she hoisted her designer purse on her right shoulder.

“Wait just a minute,” the doctor said. “How much does that thing weigh?” With the scale handy, they weighed that bad boy and discovered she was carrying around 22 pounds of stuff every day. A too-heavy purse is not only a pain to carry around, it can cause asymmetrical posture and an unbalanced gait.

She traded in her purse—which was heavy to begin with because of its extra zippers, studs and metal buckles—for a lighter model, and removed all but the necessities. Within a month, her pain had vanished.

Last year during a simplicity workshop at the Pagosa Springs Women’s Retreat, we did a fun exercise to see who had the oddest thing in their handbag. One woman pulled out a jar of jalapeno jelly, another had a ceramic camel, and the winner carried a life-sized replica of the U.S. Constitution. Our purses can sometimes become receptacles for everything—and anything.

How Many Keys Are Too Many?

Too many keys

Another friend told me that she had gone to the mechanic because her car sometimes wouldn’t start. She learned she’d damaged the car’s ignition switch. How? Her massive key ring contained 22 keys and a number of decorative fobs; its weight had pulled on the switch over the years and worn it out. (UPDATE: Thanks to Money Beagle for alerting us to the scary fact that heavy keys may have contributed to more than a dozen deaths due to ignition-related accidents in GM cars. You can read more about the affected car models and recalls in this USA Today article.)

When I left the publishing company, it seemed like a good time to simplify my keys. At the time I owned a ring that looked like something a prison guard would carry, filled with keys for everything from my safety deposit box to the keys for a house we no longer owned. After removing the nonessential keys, I was surprised to discover that I only needed to carry two—a car key, and a house key. My purse instantly lightened up by several pounds.

Wallets can get jammed with an over-abundance of stuff, too. Over time, things like old receipts, notes and expired cards can accumulate, until the wallet will barely close. How about those membership and loyalty cards we all hate to carry (but which retailers love)? If you have a smartphone, you might try an app like Stocard or Key Ring Rewards Cards, which lets you enter and store the numbers—and lose the plastic cards.

Lightening Up and Letting Go

It’s not easy for me, but simplifying helps me let go of my desire to control everything. Carrying less means accepting that I won’t always be prepared with every little thing I might need in every circumstance. The payoff is that I can go shopping or strolling without experiencing shoulder pain from a too-heavy purse. It’s also easier to find things inside the bag without having to dig.

How about you?

What items do you deem essential to carry in your purse or wallet? How many keys do you carry? Is your wallet svelte or bloated? If you’ve discovered any strategies for carrying less, we’d love to hear from you.

Hugs and happy springtime,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

Photos: Jeffrey Pott and Simplerich

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Would You Like to Join the January Money Diet?

January Money Diet 2015

Dear friends,

In just a few days, a group of us will undertake the January Money Diet and challenge ourselves to live large and start 2015 financially strong—without spending cash for 31 days.

Would you like to join us? It’s easy and free—just hop over to the January Money Diet page and leave a comment. You can also sign up to receive the January Money Diet posts via e-mail. Throughout the month, I’ll send you weekly challenges to help you save money without feeling deprived. I’ll also be giving away some exciting prizes!

Participating in the January Money Diet was really fun. We loved the structure and direction it provided.”

—Lyn M. of Ataraxia Gardens, 2013 and 2014 January Money Diet participant

It’s hard for me to believe that this will be my sixth January Money Diet. What I’ve discovered is that the annual exercise of not spending money carries over throughout the year, and helps me be much more deliberate about managing our finances during the other eleven months. The best part of all is connecting with readers and hearing your ideas.

I’d love to share this experience with you, too.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day 31 – Continue the Momentum

pine tree seedling

Photo: USFS Region 5

“Thanks for a great month! Instead of wanting to go buy new items, now I want to reuse and make what I need with the materials that I have on hand! I’m feeling very creative. I’m looking forward to continuing this challenge throughout the year.” – Mariah, 2013 January Money Diet participant

Congratulations to all of you who have reduced or eliminated nonessential spending during the month of January. Many of you generously shared your comments about the different ways you participated in the challenge, and I hope it’s been a positive and worthwhile experience for you.

This is my fifth January Money Diet, and I am so grateful to each and every one of you for undertaking this journey and inspiring both me and our merry band of dieters to stay on course.

Each January, I rediscover this wonderful truth:  when we control our money rather than letting our financial situation control and restrict us, we can be much more deliberate and thoughtful about how we spend, contribute and invest. Once we stop frittering our money away on little stuff, we have money for the bigger things that really matter!

As our challenge draws to an end, I’d love to hear about your experiences, savings results, and plans for the future. May your participation in this 31-day challenge mark the beginning of your most abundant year ever – both financially and personally.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

All Done By December One Starts in Two Days

My son showed me that funny video last week, and I had to share it with you because it tickled my funny bone. Plus, it’s a perfect lead-in for a question:

Would you like this holiday season to be filled with more laughter and joy, and less stress and spending? “All Done By December One” kicks off on October 15, and you’ll be amazed at how organized you can get for Christmas in just 10 minutes a day. More than 60 folks have already signed up to tackle some holiday tasks early this year, in order to have some precious time during December to actually enjoy the season. Would you like to join in the fun?

This year, we’ve formed a group on Lift – a simple, surprisingly motivating spot where you can stop by and let the world know that you’ve done your daily 10 minutes. Lift is free, and currently very un-commercial. You can check out the group here:

http://lift.do/groups/all-done-by-december-one

(While you’re there, check out some of the amazing things people are accomplishing in small increments, from writing books to exercising to expressing gratitude and more.)

If you’re “in,” you can join the Lift group or simply leave a comment below. You can subscribe to free e-mail updates or simply check back at Happy Simple Living during the next six weeks for ideas and encouragement to simplify the holidays, get organized early and make some breathing room during the season for the things that really matter. Here’s to more time for family, friends and animals singing Christmas carols this season!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. I’ll be posting about other topics during the coming weeks, too, for those who don’t celebrate Christmas.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Free Book Giveaway – The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture

Permaculture

I’ve learned much about permaculture after reading a very interesting book. Permaculture is a method of growing food and building homes in a manner that works with nature instead of against it.

Author Nicole Faires has written a hands-on guide that takes the reader through every step of the permaculture process. The book is divided into nine sections:

  • Overview
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Homes and shelter
  • Gardens
  • Cooking and preserving
  • Zones
  • Community
  • Plants

Faires lays out a common-sense approach for sustainable living, and while some of the ideas aren’t applicable to those of us who live in urban areas (how to build an underground house or breed cattle, for example), the ideas are nonetheless fascinating and interesting to read.

Maybe because it snowed again in Colorado yesterday I’ve been in full-out garden dreaming mode, so the gardening sections in this book were especially interesting to me. Faires includes an extensive list of plants to consider for your own homestead, from perennial food crops to interesting edibles like JuJuBe and quinoa.

She also includes a very useful 16-page chart of companion planting ideas. The idea is to group plants in communities or guilds, taking advantage of their growing tendencies and the way they use nutrients, so that the plants support each other. It’s a concept that seems so simple and smart – but one which, admittedly, I’ve rarely considered other than in terms of aesthetics.

If you’re interested in learning more about self-reliance and living off the land, the book is packed with ideas, illustrations, photos and tips for topics like worm farming, designing a greenhouse, conserving water, extending the growing season, cold storage, building a chicken coop, composting, preserving food, finding your right career and much more.

The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture is 330 pages and retails for $16.95 USD. Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided a complimentary copy for one lucky HappySimpleLiving.com reader.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and answer the question “What is one step you would like to take towards sustainability or self-sufficiency in the next 18 months?” The giveaway closes next Tuesday March 12 at midnight MST, and is open to US residents.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.