Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gardening When It Counts: Steve Solomon's approach

A few years ago, while perusing a favorite seed catalog, I noticed a book with the title Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, by a man named Steve Solomon. I’d read a little by him in other places and liked his work, and the short write-up in the catalog intrigued me. I was a little frustrated by what I perceived as too-slow progress in improving my gardening skills and wondered if a different gardening method might be worth a try. Plus my garden was growing larger and it seemed I was spending too much time digging, doing precise plant spacing, and weeding among closely-spaced plants. So I bought the book.

Solomon is the founder of Territorial Seed Company, based in Oregon; he sold the company to its current owners several years later and continued to garden and write about self-sufficiency in Oregon, then in Canada, and now in Australia. He’s writing to both beginning and experienced gardeners. He means to challenge what he sees as the intensive-gardening dogma being pushed on gardeners.

Solomon’s argument against intensively-planted beds is that they are, in his view, wasteful of water and fertilizer and do not allow plants to develop to their full potential, cheating us out of some of their nutritional value. When he began Territorial in 1979, he gardened using John Jeavons’ biointensive method (this was around the time Jeavons published the first edition of his book). Solomon even wrote three gardening books advocating intensive methods. But for his seed business, he needed to do variety trials at wider spacings in order to better evaluate the plants. (Although he doesn’t say this, I suspect that his trial gardens were large enough that he needed to plant in more time-efficient ways than the meticulous spacing required by intensive methods, and this by itself was enough to push him into using a traditional row style of gardening in his test plots.) He says that he actually irrigated the test plots less than his intensively planted beds; the plants in the test plots got larger and the resulting vegetables tasted better; and, he says, they yielded more for the space they took up, compared to plantings in intensive beds. After he sold the business in 1986 and since he had several acres to garden on, he began to research “the nearly lost art of vegetable gardening without irrigating at all” (p. 2). That research has led to several books, including this one, in which he outlines his method for growing with little to no irrigation. He points out that our future is likely to be one in which more people will want to, or have to, raise some of their own food and that they may well have to do it with little to no added water, manure, or fertilizers. He thinks this can best be done using a more traditional row-based gardening method and tells you how to do it in this book.

As my garden has grown larger, I’ve come to appreciate the extent to which the method of gardening that works best is dependent on the size of the space being gardened. If you try to do row gardening on the postage stamp of a yard that is available on a 1/8 acre lot or in a raised bed in a community garden, you’ll get very little food for your trouble and probably quit in frustration after the first season. Rows are too narrow, only a couple of feet wide at the most, and the space between the rows, another couple of feet, is wasted space. Half the garden or more is not producing anything but “weeds.” Go to an intensive planting method and you now have a 3 to 5 foot wide space in which to raise crops. If you keep the space between beds to 1 foot, you’ve gained even more space for the crops you want and less is left to the “weeds.” Now you can actually harvest enough food out of a small space to feel that the time and money you put into it was worthwhile.

As you add more intensively planted beds, the time needed to prepare, plant, and maintain the beds rises accordingly. If you run out of space before you run out of time for an intensive garden, fine - but what if you still have more space and want to use it? This is the situation I found myself in a few years ago. It’s when gardeners start looking at ways to make the more time-consuming tasks go fast enough to allow for further expansion. It may be true, as Jeavons suggests, that you only need 15 minutes a day to maintain a 100 square foot garden, but a garden that size doesn’t produce many vegetables, in my experience. If you are growing the number of beds you need to raise a substantial amount of food for two or more people, my experience suggests you’ll want closer to 10 beds, 1,000 square feet, of garden space, if not more. That 15 minutes a day has now grown to 2 1/2 hours or longer. Grow your garden into the few thousand square feet category and the row method’s potential for reducing the time needed for tasks like seeding and weeding is likely to look even better.

There is a lot to like in Solomon’s book. I haven’t seen a better description of how to file a shovel and how to use it for digging a bed anywhere. Even if you’re using Jeavons’ biointensive method, I suggest digging Solomon’s way, with a shovel rather than a spade. I found it took half the time to dig a bed Solomon’s way versus Jeavons’. For those of you who intend to use a tiller, Solomon tells you how to use it, and when (to convert a grassy area into a garden, and only then). He gives a recipe for what he calls a complete organic fertilizer, with several different choices of ingredients so you can match it to what is available in your area. He tells you how much of that plus how much compost and, if you can get it, manure to add to your garden - and what to do if you can’t get the fertilizer ingredients or manure. (He assumes you’re going to be making compost and tells you how to make it.) He suggests about how much space you’ll need to raise a substantial proportion of the veggies you want to eat if you’re gardening his way. He tells you the spacing to use for each crop for several different scenarios including differing amounts of available irrigation; those of you who garden in drier areas will find this information very valuable. He has some really interesting things to say about the quality of plants available in garden centers and the quality of seeds available from mail-order companies, and he makes recommendations on seed companies to use that make sense to me (not all are still in business, but that’s not surprising since the book was published in 2005). He understands that many gardeners don’t have the equipment or desire to start a lot of their own transplants, so he tells you how to get seeds to grow right in the garden and to buy only the few plants that need to be started early in temperate climates: tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, perhaps squashes and melons. I had good luck starting rows of various kinds of seeds in my garden using Solomon’s directions on pages 121 to 123.

For anyone who has a lot of ground for gardening (say about 1,000 square feet or more), needs or wants to raise large amounts of food, and doesn’t have a lot of time, money, or water for irrigation, Solomon’s method is probably the best method to use. Solomon’s opinionated writing style makes the book fun to read even if you don’t have that much land. Most gardeners will find something useful enough to be worth the time to read the book, even if they choose to garden by a different method.

I have some disagreements with Solomon. To start with, the organization of his book is idiosyncratic, to say the least. Everything you need is there somewhere, but you’re going to have to hunt for it. Why, for instance, is the drawing of the different ways to arrange plants on rows or in beds on page 58, but the chart of plant spacings is much later in the book? It would have helped a lot to have them next to each other, so I could visualize how each kind of crop was to be planted. Why is growing seedlings in the garden center chapter, not the seeds chapter? Frustrations of this sort keep cropping up. The book can be annoying to use until you get a sense of where to find what you want to know.

I don’t agree with his choice of hoe and hoeing method. If you’re going to use Solomon’s method and you expect to remove “weeds,” you’ll need a hoe. He suggests using the classic garden hoe that is available in just about every hardware store that stocks garden tools. Maybe it works OK for him. I find that I can’t stand upright using this hoe, and I’m only five feet seven. After a couple of attempts with it, I quit using it. I suggest the 3 3/4” fixed blade collinear hoe available from Johnny’s instead. You’ll find weeding a good deal faster and easier on your body if you stand upright while doing it, and this hoe blade is small enough to use between rows as long as rows are at least 8 inches apart.

For all that Solomon criticizes the biointensive method, his method isn’t as different as he makes it out to be. For one thing, Solomon recommends hand-digging a raised bed, or at least a wide raised row, for almost every crop; so does Jeavons. He’s using about the same amount of compost (roughly 4 five gallon buckets per 100 square feet) that Jeavons uses. Both methods suggest organic fertilizers if any are needed and use similar amounts to the best of my ability to tell. The major differences are the planting patterns (hexagonal spacing versus rows aligned along either the short or long dimension of the bed) and whether you start most plants in flats for later transplanting (Jeavons) or directly in the raised bed or row (Solomon). Solomon doesn’t get Jeavons’ spacings correct in his chart on pages 148 and 149: the way he reports them is as if Jeavons’ spacing is square (i.e. 6” by 6”) rather than hexagonal, and the spacing for some of the vegetables has been revised in later editions of Jeavons’ work. If you aren’t strongly drawn to one or the other method, try each and see which you prefer.

Solomon claims that he gets nearly the same yields with less water and fertilizer as the biointensive method. I’m not sold on that claim. He doesn’t give any actual yield numbers or the units in which he measures them, so there is no way to compare his yields to what Jeavons suggests can be achieved. Yield can be a tricky concept. Jeavons measures it on a weight per unit area basis. The few times Solomon discusses yields, he seems to be talking about weight per plant. These aren’t directly comparable unless the area taken up by the plant is known.

I’ve been keeping detailed records of weight per unit area for all of my crops for over a decade. For crops that I have raised by both methods, so far the weight per unit area has been considerably higher using Jeavons’ method, as much as twice as high. It’s easy to see why: the spacing between plants is much higher using Solomon’s method than Jeavons’ so less of the square footage of the bed contains the desired plants. Solomon would have you keep that space weeded so the “weeds” don’t suck up the water and nutrients meant for your crops. Some of the most interesting research I’ve seen, however, as reported in Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, indicates that having plants cover the soil at all times is crucial to keeping minerals like calcium cycling between soil and crops in areas with enough rain to grow forests. If there are no plant roots available to take up calcium and store it in plant bodies, the calcium ions tend to dissolve as water enters the soil, eventually winding up in groundwater below the reach of plant roots. Here in St. Louis, on the edge of the eastern broadleaf forest and where we usually get enough (if not too much) rain most of the growing season, we may have a more sustainable garden if we pack it closely with the plants we want so as to keep the calcium cycling between soil and plant. Having a lot of bare soil might mean too much calcium lost, even though other nutrients might be more available because there are fewer plants competing for them. However, if we were to get into a drought during the growing season and irrigation water were not available, I’d do what Solomon suggests and remove plants to increase the spacing, hoping to get at least some yield.

I’m finding that it takes a lot of time to write these posts. Starting now I’m going to attempt to keep to an every other week posting schedule - no promises, but that’s the goal. In two weeks, then, I’ll tell you how I’m gardening, and why. Unless something else seems more important at the time.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sustainable gardening: John Jeavons' biointensive method

In the previous post I discussed the square foot method of gardening. While I found it useful the first few years I was gardening, the space limitations became more frustrating as I wanted to grow more, and more different kinds, of vegetables over a longer season. Along the way I learned about the next method I’ll discuss, the method developed by John Jeavons and the other folks at Ecology Action and described in Jeavons’ book How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine (the 8th edition is due out next month; I have the 7th edition). It is sometimes called the biointensive method and I will call it that here, but be advised that Jeavons calls it by a longer name that he has service-marked. I don’t know that I can legally use that name, so I’ll call it the biointensive method instead.

Like the square foot method, the biointensive method is based on a three to five foot wide bed so that all of the bed can be reached from one or both sides. Unlike the square foot method, the biointensive method is a whole-system method developed especially for people who have little or no money or access to outside resources to begin a garden. About all that one needs is the desire to garden.  The biointensive method is built on deep soil preparation; composting; intensive planting; companion planting; carbon farming; calorie farming; and open-pollinated seeds. It is all these factors working together that create a sustainable garden or farm, according to Jeavons.

The biointensive method is especially good for people who want to raise substantial amounts of plant foods, foods that offer a lot of calories as well as foods that contain lots of vitamins and minerals. Salad crops and greens offer good nutrition, but little in the way of calories. In order for home-grown plant foods to become a large part of your diet, you’ll need to grow foods with a lot of caloric value: root crops like potatoes or sweet potatoes, grain crops like corn or wheat, and dry beans or peas. The method suggests allocating about 30% of garden space to these crops, compared to about 10% allocated to typical garden crops like lettuce, greens, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and so forth. Jeavons calls this calorie farming.

Because the method is geared toward people who have little if any access to outside resources like fertilizers to help their gardens grow better and because biointensive practices can quickly deplete the soil if efforts to build soil are neglected, crops that produce compostable material should make up about 60% of the garden area, according to Jeavons. These include grain crops for the compostable stems left behind after the grain has been harvested as well as soil-building legumes like clovers and a few other plants such as comfrey. Jeavons calls this approach carbon farming.

If you can get a soil test done when you begin your garden and have access to organic fertilizers to address any deficiencies, you can add such fertilizers when you begin gardening. If you are growing the recommended space in carbon crops, the only additions to your garden after the first year will be the compost that you make. Making the best compost is thus crucial to keeping a biointensive garden fertile; the book includes directions on making and applying compost in a way that sustains or even increases soil fertility over time.

In biointensive gardening, plantings are made on a triangular grid so that plants are spaced an equal distance from their neighbors. You can see this more clearly in the photo below. Compare the rows in the foreground of this photo to the rows in the middle to see the difference in the way crops are spaced in the two methods.

This allows more plants to be grown in the same area compared to the square-foot method spacings. Biointensive and square-foot gardening share the same advantages of intensive plantings: fewer weeds once the vegetables grow large enough to touch and more economical use of water compared to traditional row gardening.

Companion planting, or planting certain kinds of crops near each other because they have (or at least are thought to have) a beneficial relationship to one another, is also an aspect of the biointensive method but not much discussed in the square foot method. Companion planting can help to draw beneficial insects to your garden, or may use space more efficiently (fast-growing plants placed between slower-growing crops), or plants may act directly on each other, such as nettles increasing the volatile components of other herbs. Conversely, some plants inhibit each other; the book discusses some of this information, or lore, as well so you can avoid these combinations.

In the biointensive method, slightly raised beds are created by the gardener’s own labor and a shovel. Rigorously applying the method means double-digging, or at least getting as close to double-digging as one’s soil allows. While the labor is not beyond the ability of anyone in decent physical shape, it is physical labor and it takes a long time while one is learning the method. Expect at least 8 hours or more of work to dig a 100 square foot bed the first time, maybe the first few times, you do it. It’s best to start with a smaller area at first, say 50 square feet or less, and slowly expand as you learn the method.

You could plant your biointensive garden with seedlings you purchased elsewhere, but what if you can’t afford to buy seedlings or you want a variety not carried as seedlings? What happens if seedlings, or seeds themselves, become unavailable or unaffordable? In order to garden in a truly sustainable way, you need to grow from seed and eventually produce your own seed for future plants. Thus the emphasis on open-pollinated seeds and on growing from seeds in the biointensive method. Jeavons goes further than just explaining how to start seeds: he shows you how to make your own seed flats from scrap wood and how to make your own seed-starting mix from garden soil and compost.

I really like this method because it considers the garden as a whole system and emphasizes making it truly sustainable, for you and for the whole planet. You need very little to begin with it: just yourself, the book, a small area to become your garden, a shovel, some seeds, some compost, and a little organic fertilizer if you have access to it (you can do without the fertilizer, but your yields will be reduced for several years while you are building soil). Because you don’t need wooden frames to outline the beds and you use the soil you already have plus a little organic fertilizer and some compost, this method is much cheaper than the square-foot method for the same amount of garden space and easier to scale up if you want to increase your garden’s size later on. Making and applying your own compost, and growing crops that produce a lot of compostable material, means that this method is not only cheaper but also has the potential of relying entirely on on-site materials to build and maintain soil and grow large amounts of food, a major advantage for anyone with little cash or a desire to garden in a truly sustainable way. The book has excellent tables with all the information you need to plan your garden and evaluate your results, including weights of produce per unit area you can expect to obtain at various levels of experience with the techniques. Once you get good at this method, you will get higher yields per unit area than with square foot or row gardening. Furthermore, the folks at Ecology Action have produced a series of books elaborating on different aspects of the biointensive method, including books on scaling up the method to where it provides all of your food and other items you need (fibers, dye plants, and the like) as well as a (very) modest income from selling high-demand produce. You can spend years engaged in improving your skill with every step of the method!

The biggest disadvantage to this method is that it takes more time to learn to do it well due to its greater complexity compared to square foot gardening. It’s more time-consuming to plant according to triangular spacing, especially at smaller spacings (under 6 inches), than it is to plant according to square-foot spacing. Double digging takes time to learn and time to do, and you need to be in decent shape to do it (please check with a health care professional if you have any doubts about your body’s ability to handle physical labor before you dig your first bed!). It’s more difficult to figure out exactly how many plants you’ll get in a certain area with triangular spacing; in my experience, the charts over-estimate how many plants will fit into a 100 square foot bed at each spacing. It’s more difficult to figure out how to space plants when you are changing spacing for a different crop from one row to the next. The full-sized flat Jeavons recommends is, I think, too large and heavy; stick with a half-sized flat three inches deep. If you are going to grow as many seedlings in flats as the method suggests (certain root crops like carrots, beets, and turnips are started in flats and transplanted, as well as crops like tomatoes that are more typically raised as transplants), you’ll need more than just a windowsill to grow those seeds unless your garden is very small, necessitating grow lights or, preferably, a cold frame. The mathematics involved in calculating numbers of seeds to start, numbers of plants to grow, and yields may be intimating to people not comfortable with basic math; the density of information in the tables may similarly intimate folks who prefer pictures and drawings to numbers. Finally, the small percentage of area allocated to traditional garden crops and the large area that is supposed to be planted to grain crops may not appeal to people who aren’t interested in growing grains and isn’t well suited to people who only have a small space available for gardening.

Jeavons and the other folks at Ecology Action developed the method in coastal California, an ecosystem without much in the way of broad-leaved deciduous trees. Ecology Action advocates the method for other locations that lack such trees. In these cases, I understand the importance of growing large amounts of compostable materials within garden beds; there is little else available to make the amount of compost needed to keep garden soil healthy. Here in the eastern broadleaf forest ecosystem, where every fall carbon rains down on us in the form of leaves whether we like it or not, I wonder if we need to grow as high a percentage of our garden area in carbon crops if we use leaves as a major ingredient in compost. If trees produce more leaves than they need to maintain the fertility of the soil that they draw on, the extra leaves could be used to make compost and the system as a whole remain sustainable. I don’t know if this is the case. What I do know is that the oak leaves that clog our drainage ditch need to be removed for the ditch to work as designed; given that and given that my neighbors don’t like those leaves blowing onto their lawns, I may as well use them as a major ingredient in my compost piles. And if I can use some of the leaves for compost and the whole system remain sustainable, I can plant a higher percentage of my garden to garden and calorie crops compared to grain crops, thereby reducing the extra processing (threshing, winnowing, and grinding) that grain crops require to become edible.

I don’t recommend the full biointensive method to people who want a very small garden (less than 100 square feet) of traditional garden crops, but even if you fall into this category, you may still find Jeavons’ book useful for the excellent charts and detailed information on many different aspects of gardening, especially soil preparation and amounts of compost and organic fertilizer to use. Where the biointensive method really shines is for intermediate-sized home gardens, say anything from a few hundred to a few thousand square feet in size, and for gardeners who want to garden in the most sustainable and the cheapest way possible. While it takes time to learn, the results are worth the time spent. Those of you who learn best by watching someone are advised to obtain copies of Jeavons’ videos from the Ecology Action website as well as the book; I didn’t really get how to double-dig till I watched Jeavons do it. If you’re planning to use square foot spacings but need or want to dig your garden rather than used a framed raised bed, you can use Jeavons’ book and/or videos or Steve Solomon’s book (next post) to learn how to dig your garden.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gardening the square-foot way

One of the essential elements of our voluntary simplicity practice has been growing some of our own food. Sometimes new gardeners ask me what book or gardening method is best for a beginning gardener. To answer this, I’ll look at three different books and the gardening methods each advocates in this and the next few posts. I’ve tried each system and will let you know what I think are the pros and cons of each and under what circumstances each method works best.

The first method that I was successful with was the square foot gardening method developed by Mel Bartholomew and described in his book Square Foot Gardening, first published in 1981. Here's a photo of one of my square foot gardens, taken in 1998.

A square foot garden is planted in a framed, raised bed no more than 4 feet wide and as long as one cares to make it. A beginning gardener should keep it small, say 4 by 4 feet, while learning the skills of the gardener's trade. One foot by one foot sections are marked off on the surface of the soil in the bed and a crop of the gardener’s choosing is planted within each of the one foot by one foot squares, hence the name square foot gardening. The number of plants used within each square foot depends on the crop to be planted there. For a crop that is planted one to a square foot, that crop is planted in the center of the square. A one foot square can be divided into 4, 9, or 16 equal-area divisions. Smaller crops are planted one to each of these divisions. Large crops like broccoli or zucchini require more than one square foot per plant. Mel’s books (the latest edition was published in 2006) include tables giving the number of each kind of crop that can fit into a square foot. As examples, one pepper plant is planted in one square foot; each square foot can be planted with four lettuce plants, nine bean plants, or sixteen radish plants. The books include information on how to make the framed, raised bed and the soil mix that it is filled with, instructions on starting seeds, and other basic information needed by beginning gardeners.

A major advantage of the square foot gardening method is that it is very easy to design and plant such a garden. All you need to do is look up the crop you want to plant and draw a reasonably straight line in the dirt to section off a square foot into smaller units if needed. Mel’s seed-starting instructions are clear; I had good success with them. (A beginner could buy seedlings if desired rather than take a chance on seeds.) The recommended spacings work for most varieties of each kind of crop. The 4 foot width of the bed means all parts of the bed can be reached easily for planting and weeding. As the plants grow they begin to shade out weeds (assuming you’ve weeded reasonably well while the intended plants were still small), reducing weeding work. It’s easy to water a square foot garden because it’s a small space. For a gardener with limited space or who wants to raise only small amounts of certain kinds of vegetables (say salad vegetables or herbs, perhaps mixed with a few flowers), this may be the best method because it is economical on space and easy to do. It’s also excellent for those of you who want a tidy looking garden. You can buy the frames, soil mix, and other things you need at (you can also make the bed and the soil mix yourself using directions in the books) and learn more about the method from Mel's books and at

The major disadvantage to the square foot garden, in my opinion, is the insistence that it be done as a raised bed with framed sides. Granted, you avoid the hard work of digging a garden as the other methods require, and the framed, raised bed garden with its special soil mix will probably have fewer weeds than a dug garden. But it is much more costly to buy the supplies for the box and the soil mix than to purchase the shovel needed to prepare a garden by either of the next two methods. If you decide later to expand the garden, you’ll need to build more frames and buy more soil mix, incurring more expense. You can buy cheaper wood than the cedar recommended, but it will rot after a few years and need to be replaced.

Another disadvantage is that my square foot gardens usually didn't look quite as neat as claimed because the plants I chose often outgrew their alloted space. Beans seemed to be especially problematic in this regard; once past a certain size, they flopped over into surrounding square feet. I also had some difficulty figuring out how to allocate crops spatially across the raised bed so that taller crops didn’t shade out shorter ones and temporally so I could have food for longer during the gardening season. This is not a good method for crops that need a lot of space, like vining squashes and corn.

Another disadvantage to the square foot garden is the low depth of prepared soil. Some crops, such as carrots, need a larger depth of loosened soil than the shallow box can provide. The shallow soil in the frames will dry out faster than will a deeply dug garden.

For those of you who have only a small space for a garden or who need or want a very neat garden (this method is ideal for edible landscaping because you can easily include herbs and flowers among the vegetables and the crops can be arranged in a pleasing way), square foot gardening is likely the best method for you. If you are gardening in a community garden, your plot will probably be a framed, raised bed, ideal for this method. If you only want to grow some salad crops or herbs, or a mix of these, this method will be a good fit for your situation, especially if you have more money than time for gardening.

If you want a larger garden to start or expect you will expand it later, you might want to try digging a bed rather than making a framed, raised bed but use the crop spacings recommended for square foot gardening. Because the spacing is very geometric, it is easy to understand and do. You can learn how to dig a bed from either of the next two methods.

The next post will discuss the biointensive method developed by John Jeavons and the Ecology Action folks.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Living Low in the Lou: practicing simplicity in the St. Louis region

Hello and welcome to Living Low in the Lou! This is where I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned over close to 20 years of practicing voluntary simplicity.

Why living low? Living low to me means several things:
    ... eating lower on the food chain (more plant foods, fewer animal products);
    ... eating fewer processed foods and more home-grown and -prepared foods;
    ... spending less money (on energy, food, material goods, and more);
    ... using lower amounts of fossil fuels and polluting substances;
    ... sourcing goods closer to home, lowering the need to ship them long distances;
    ... reducing time spent in unsatisfying activities;
    ... reducing exposure to mass media in favor of homemade entertainment;
    ... doing for myself as much as possible.

Why the Lou? Because I live in the greater St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as the Lou by local residents. I’ll be discussing what I know, and much of what I know is particular to St. Louis. That doesn’t mean that it’s useless to others, especially to those of you who live in similar-sized metro areas, in areas with similar economic patterns, and/or in a similar climate. I’ll try to include information on why I do what I do so that if you live somewhere else, you can consider ways that you could apply relevant ideas. But I’m not going to promise wide applicability. I’ll try to make it reasonably interesting to read even for those of you for whom the information isn’t as relevant. I hope that it will be helpful to at least a few of you.

A little about me to start. I’m a younger member of the Baby Boom generation, born the same year that Sputnik was launched. I’ve lived most of my life in the Midwest and have lived in the St. Louis metro area since 1984. My husband Mike and I married in 1989. I moved into his home in Jennings, in north St. Louis County, at that time, selling the condo in Maryland Heights that I’d bought a few years earlier. Until 1992, we lived a rather more conventional life than we now do, with both of us working for pay. That year I quit my job with a large corporation. The change in our economic condition and the change in my personal outlook on life combined to lead us to begin to practice voluntary simplicity in 1994. This blog is one result of our practice. May it be helpful to all beings!