18 August 2018

Basic spring vege-growing guide for NZ

Here's a  very basic guide on how to grow key vegetable crops from seed this summer. Yay! I've been doing this for 15 years or so. There are other ways, but here's how I do it.

Dee-licious tomatoes

Why?

It's cheap, satisfying and delicious. Homegrown cucumbers are like a different species to bought ones - so sweet and juicy!

There are bigger reasons, too. I have been reading a book called Drawdown, which prioritises the best ways to not only halt global warming, but to reverse it by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Home gardening doesn't get its own category, but the book says that "Home gardens represent a form of small-scale agriculture that has been practiced in many parts of the world since time immemorial. ... Home gardens hold higher carbon sequestration potential compared to monocrop production systems, with sequestration rates comparable to those of mature forest stands."

Sequestration means removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Mature forests do a spectacular amount of it, so it's a flattering comparison.

Let's go!

I recommend, in the North Island at least, getting some seeds of at least the following:
- tomatoes
- zucchini
- cucumber
- lettuce

If you don't have old punnets to start growing the seeds in, you can use scissors to cut off the bottom of two litre plastic milk bottles and punch some drainage holes in the bottom. You want the walls of punnets created this way to be about 5 cm high.




Fill them with seed-raising mix. This is not a zero-waste ingredient, because it comes in plastic bags. It's more expensive than potting mix, so sometimes I fill the punnet two-thirds full of potting mix, and top it up with seed-raising mix.

Photosynthesizing in the sun.

A family of four will be happy with about six tomato plants, four cucumbers, two zucchinis and a dozen lettuce. Lettuce need to be sown every month or so for replacement crops, although you can make them last longer by just picking outside leaves as you need them (I only grow loose-leaf varieties for this reason). Sow double the amount of seed as you'd like plants in case you have some dud seeds.

Sow the seed

You can buy seeds from supermarket or hardware shop. Moneymaker tomatoes are reliable and productive. Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are meant to be excellent, too.

Make little dents in the seed-raising mix with your finger, pop in a seed and cover with the mix (which I'll now call soil). Bigger seeds need deeper dents - about twice as deep as the longest bit of the seed. Plant seeds about 3 cm apart so that they don't have to compete with each other. Wash hands well afterwards - that stuff can have nasty germs in it.

Sit the punnets in a tray of some sort. Fill the tray with water. This waters the soil from below, which avoids disturbing the seeds. Make sure the soil gets really moist, then drain away the water from the tray so that the soil can drain. Ideally you'd water them this way until they sprout, but I can't be bothered lifting the punnets out to drain away the water each time! Gentle watering into the edge of the punnet with a mini watering can or a bottle is generally fine.


Sprout the seed

Water stimulates seeds to sprout. Keep the punnets moist but not sodden. A day or two of subsequent dryness will probably kill the seed.

At this time of year (August) my seeds sleep inside at night to keep them warm. I just lift the whole tray in. Once the seeds have sprouted, they need to go outside each day to catch the sunlight and photosynthesize. They still need careful watering so that they stay moist but not sodden.

Egmont Seeds' gourmet lettuce mix - my favourite, and only $2 a packet!


Enjoy watching your plants get bigger by the day! Separate out everything but lettuce so that there is just one per container (you can use plain potting mix or compost in the pots you transfer them into).

I like to put tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers into quite big pots - maybe as big as your spread-out hand - so that I don't have to re-pot them again before planting out. I like them to grow big and healthy before they go into the garden, and they don't like their roots to be squashed.

When the nights warm up in September, you can stop bringing them inside.

For an excellent, cheap e-book on seedlings, check out Green Footprint's Growing Great Seedlings guide.

Planting out

You can plant out lettuce into the garden in September. Just put compost on top of weeded soil, and plant into that. We have a lot of slugs and snails, so we reluctantly put out slug and snail pellets. It's either that or bought lettuce!

Tender, delicious lettuce.


Keep the other things until mid-October unless they grow so fast that they simply must go out. This can happen with zucchini and cucumber! Plant them out earlier if you must, but be aware that those planted too early might not give the best crops all summer, although you'll get nice early crops. My trick here is to sow some more seed in November for replacement plants. I want free, delicious veges right through until mid-autumn.

To plant out the bigger things, soak the plants in their pots in a bucket of water for an hour or so. Dig a hole bigger than the pot, put compost in it, plant the plant, refill the hole and press down the soil around it.

Cherry tomatoes to eat every day in summer. I think this one was 'Tomaccio', which is one of our family favourites. The seed can be hard to find, though.

Other tips:

  • Put in a stake next to tomatoes. This can be a long, thin branch you've pruned off something, and doesn't have to be perfectly straight. Try not to buy stakes or ties!
  • Cut some old t-shirts into strips and use them to tie the tomato plants to the stake as they grow.
  • Bury tomato plants up to their first leaves when you plant them. They grow new roots from their stalk!
  • Remember zucchinis grow huge, so allow plenty of space.
  • Cucumber plants seem to make more cucumbers if they can grow over a frame. They also take up a lot less room in your garden.
  • Put mulch all around your planted-out veg. I buy a bale of pea straw from an animal feed place for $15, and it lasts all summer. It's either that or spend all your free time weeding and watering! Mulch traps water and suppresses weeds.
  • Try not to water too much, or the plants won't grow the deep roots they need to get their own water from deep in the soil. That doesn't apply to lettuces - they need plenty of watering.

A frame idea from Hamilton Gardens' Sustainable Backyard
My cucumber plants last year. They really needed a taller frame than this.

Beans

I think everyone likes fresh green beans. My children love them raw! In October, poke some climbing bean seeds directly into the garden about 5 cm deep next to a frame they can climb up. Be aware that slugs and snails can gnaw them off at ground level soon after they sprout. This is only a problem when the plants are very small.

Beans climbing up a bamboo teepee.

Compost

Chuck as much of this in the soil as you can every year. If you don't, your plants will be spindly and unproductive. No one can grow a good garden without compost. Home-made is vastly superior, and it keeps food scraps out of the landfill where they create greenhouse gases. (Compost heaps and bins generally have enough oxygen to thwart methane production.)

No-dig

Once upon a time, no-dig gardening was for hippies. But it turns out that it is far better environmentally, according to Drawdown. Why?
1. Each time you dig or till the soil, you release carbon from it. This is a bad move for global warming, and also for soil health. You want heaps of carbon in there: it locks in moisture and feeds soil microbes.
2. Tilling disturbs the soil structure and the microbial life it houses. Soil microbes interact with plants in an eons-old system to sequester more carbon and keep their plants healthy.

Think about how nature does it. Leaf litter and dead creatures and manure accumulate on the soil surface. There is no bare soil. Seeds fall onto the litter and sprout in the natural compost that forms underneath it. The addition of leaves, dead creatures and manure continues indefinitely to provide the soil with carbon and nutrients.

And let's be honest: each time we try to beat nature's way, we mess it up.

Every plant that grows removes carbon from the atmosphere and locks it into itself.

Charles Dowding has some excellent free videos on no-dig gardening. Prepare for some serious garden envy when you see his property.

We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, we eat the seed

Each vegetable you grow and eat is vegetable that you are not paying someone to grow for you in a large-scale commercial operation. I don't want to knock people who grow food, but the evidence for the fact that it's often (but not always) done in a planet-unfriendly way is clear.

The best reason to grow your own food, however, is not because you 'should' do it, but because you just can't resist! For me, home gardening ticks all the boxes of "live a good, happy, productive life", and I do it because I enjoy it greatly. I hope this guide gives some beginner gardeners confidence to give it a go!

Part of our vegetable garden last summer, groaning with food.


13 August 2018

I don't like colour of my new Mercedes

My daughter recently told me that she had seen an Instagram video about a US teenager who complainedthat she didn't like the colour of the Mercedes her parents had bought her for her birthday. My girl was incredulous that the teenager could be so ungrateful.

But it strikes me that we all do the same thing.

For example, yesterday when I was paying by credit card for my produce at a fruit and vege shop, I felt a momentary wave of annoyance when they didn't have the option of payWave (contactless payment). I had to stick my card in the machine and type in my PIN. Oh, what a groan that was (not).

At first we love extreme convenience, and get a hit of happiness from it. But how quickly we come to treat any deviation from it as actual inconvenience. And how unhappy this dissatisfaction makes us!

Can we escape this crazy thought treadmill? For a start, we can think about it clearly and objectively.

Looking clearly at our own Mercedes

Much like the spoilt Dudley Dursley who complains that his parents haven't given him enough birthday presents, every time we take for granted an incredible life-enhancing advancement that has been bestowed upon us, we lose opportunity to appreciate how lucky we are.

Furthermore, by failing to be satisfied with what we've got and wanting more and better, we water the seeds of dissatisfaction that lie inside us, and we demand a load from this planet - a load that is not ours to take.


Being blind to the wonders we have been given

There are people, long dead, who worked hard to develop incredible technologies that make our lives deeply luxurious. Do we appreciate this every day?

Our unfashionable but very functional almond-toned toilet.


No. We thumb our noses at them and act like spoilt teenagers when we don't frequently feel grateful for:
1. Toilets that flush away our excrement.
2. Taps that give us clean, drinkable water (in more than one room of the house, and in hot and cold versions).
3. Electricity, which gives us instant light and heat.
4. Ovens that heat up with the flick of a switch.

Our luxurious oven.


Instead, we wish we had a floating toilet and a designer kitchen, a butler's pantry, a double wall oven and an induction hob. (Hey, me too - although I'd like a composting toilet, and I have no desire for a butler's pantry.)

Never mind the sumptuousness of more than one bedroom per family (or even one actual room per family!) clothes we don't have to spin, weave, knit or sew, motorised carriages that do the job of our muscles to get us from one place to another, and supermarkets full of intensely convenient food.

Are milk, butter, flour and pre-picked vegetables not intensely convenient? Try owning a cow, milking it, churning the butter, keeping it all cold, growing your own wheat and grinding it, and growing all the vegetables you eat from seed. Supermarkets are halls of opulence.

I recently read that three billion people in the world cook over wood and dung. Fortunately I was lying down when I read that astounding figure. Good God. I press a shiny button, while they collect wood and dry animal dung just to boil water.

But here's how to give yourself a recurring shot of happiness: simply appreciate this luxury we live with and the convenience of so many aspects of our modern lives. See them the way our great-great-great grandparents would.



The environmental cost

Each time we indulge our human characteristic of wanting more and better, there are costs to the planet:
- fuel to move around you or the product or its raw materials;
- greenhouse gases to be burnt to extract, produce and transport;
- removal of the raw materials from wherever they originated;
- any packaging the thing comes with it;
- the disposal of the thing when you've finished with it;
- the years it will spend in landfill;
- any pollution involved with its production, use or disposal (e.g. discharge into waterways or air).

This is why second-hand stuff is a great way to indulge our desirous natures - those resources are already spent on this product, so you might as well get the most out of it.

A second-hand chair.

Our human-ness

Yes, these feelings are core to our being: humans tend to be intrinsically never satisfied and always want more and better. Our drive to satisfy our wants and needs is why humans have burgeoned in number and drastically modified the planet. We are outrageously accomplished animals.

But we're higher-plane beings, too. We can control our desires and where we put our thoughts, time and energy. We need to put more effort into this! We all have work to do in this area, but it's rewarding.

We know that the short term pleasure of shopping and purchasing is fleeting, and our happiness level quickly returns to what it was. We know that comparing ourselves to those who have more than us is a source of misery. We know that spending time in nature makes us happier and healthier. We just need to refocus our lens.

Action plan

This is what I try to do:

  • Make do with what I have, and take pleasure in it.
  • Care for it well, and take pleasure in my accomplishment.
  • Buy what I need second hand, and take pleasure in the searching and finding.
  • Learn how to make what I need, and take pleasure in my creations.
  • Be aware that these action points are leaving the planet less pillaged.
  • Get out in nature to enjoy what we still have. I really, really take pleasure in that.

A kereru I spotted while walking through the bush near our house recently.

Above all, look for things to be grateful for. You can do it several times a day when you flush the toilet! Unless you're lucky enough to have a composting one, that is ...

3 August 2018

The seal and the kereru

As I walked around Mount Maunganui with my children a couple of weeks ago, I was, as usual, transported to a place of wonder and beauty.

View from Mount Maunganui's base track.

I'd recently walked through Venice, Vienna, Paris, Oxford, and the architecture was exquisite.

Near the centre of Vienna.

 In Vienna we went to a famous old coffee house, and the friendly waiter wanted to know where we were from. As with so many people, he practically swooned over the thought of New Zealand.


Inside a Viennese coffee house.

I do like a nice ceiling.

"The nature! So beautiful!" he said.

"Yes, but we don't have many beautiful buildings," I replied. "You have such beautiful buildings."

"Who needs buildings?" said this man, who spends his days in I'm sure what is one of the world's most beautiful buildings. "Nature!"

Of course we are pretty keen on having buildings, for good reason. But buildings can be replicated, even if it's difficult to do. People are smart enough to do that. But no one can create something like this from scratch. This is irreplaceable and non-recoverable.

A mid-winter Saturday at the foot of Mount Maunganui.


The seal and the kereru


Each time we've walked around the Mount recently, we've seen at least one seal, which makes my heart leap! Last time we spotted this baby one, presumably waiting for its mother to return with fish.





Once upon a time, I told the children, before humans came to New Zealand, this coastline was crowded with sea mammals, and also seabirds and shorebirds. This is but a tiny remnant of what was here.

But still they are here - and when I was growing up, it was very rare to see seals.

Once upon a time there were also huge flocks of kereru (wood pigeons) in New Zealand (and in some places, there still are). When we moved to Hamilton from Titirangi 12 years ago, I was sad to leave the lush fat kereru in our garden there. Here we have only seen the odd one, perhaps every two years or so.

One of a pair of kereru I spotted in Hammond bush, Hamilton.
Our community and the local council do predator control in this bush.

But last week I saw them three times, and twice, for the first time ever, there were two of them. If they are a breeding pair, we may get more.

I love beautiful old buildings. But oh, the nature. New Zealand's biological heritage may be a scanty fragment of what it once was, but we have to nurture it. Given the right conditions, our native animals are tough and resilient and will return (unless they're extinct, which so many already are). They just need a hand. A lot of hands. Two of them are mine.

31 July 2018

Seattle and Europe: house & garden love!

I have a dream of weaning myself off house magazines. I think they're a bit like fashion magazines for anorexics: they feed us with house envy, and with a longing for what we haven't got.

Wanting what you haven't got is a sure-fire way to unhappiness. It's bad for personal finances, too. It's good for businesses who peddle homeware and renovation supplies, though.

But we all have to live somewhere, and many of us innately want to have attractive surroundings. On our recent overseas trip, I took the opportunity to indulge in these. Prepare also for more than a spattering of gardens.

Seattle

In Seattle, I stepped inside my dream home magazine. At least in the suburbs I wandered with my children, nobody had torn down their craftsman home to put up an eaveless box with vast quantities of double-glazed windows. Instead we saw sweet wooden house after wooden house, each a bit different and colourfully painted.





There was a bit of the kiwi about them, except it was the type that shows up more in vivid stylized paintings of wooden New Zealand houses than in reality. It was a supercharged scene of colourful historic houses, and gardens that struck an unusual balance between style and wilderness.

The people who built these houses cared for their curvaceous details, and so do today's owners. These are loved houses. They are also extremely expensive - Seattle has hugely pricey real estate.




The gardens boasted flowers, texture, colour and a bit of wildness. The sections were small, the lawns were tidy and the plantings were generous. They looked so unlike New Zealand gardens! This might be because the winters are much colder there, and they have access to plants that we don't (and vice versa, of course).


Why restrict your garden to your own property when the berm is available?




Me pretending I live here.

But many of the plants were familiar, and the differences were less about content and more about style. It made me realise that as with clothes, we obviously follow the crowds with gardening and do what others are doing, without being remotely aware that we are being sheep.

The bees were loving it.

Chamonix

I can't even remember what made me aware of this darling little French alpine town, or that I wanted to go there. Something I read years ago, I suspect. When I saw the hassles we'd have to go to get there by train from Vienna, our previous planned stop, I wondered if I was mad and my children would be undone by the hours we had to spend on the train and the changes we had to make.

Mont Blanc towers behind Chamonix
We ended up hopping from Vienna to Innsbruck, at the foot of the Austrian Alps. There we stayed two nights and were stunned by the beauty of the mountains, which in hindsight paled in comparison to Chamonix's! Then we began about a 12-hour train journey to Chamonix, right across Switzerland, including two missed connections and a whole lot of worry about whether we'd really get there in time to sleep in a bed rather than on a footpath.

But by the time we got on the last train, the "Chamonix Express", we were utterly sold. This was a slow (non-express) narrow gauge railway that climbed and twisted through enormously high snowy mountains. I could not believe the scale and beauty of them, the altitude of the little villages - most of which we stopped at - nor the  sweetness of the wooden Swiss chalets. Even the newly-built ones looked like something from the "Heidi" television series I used to watch.

Our clean little train had enormous windows, and if we could have reached out of them we would almost have been able to stroke the conifers and ferns and cool our hands under the small waterfalls. This was a land of dense forest, some green pasture, towering snowy peaks and well-worn rock. And very large stacks of firewood.

I will never go on a lovelier train ride. I doubt there is one. It was very cheap, too.

But to the houses and gardens of Chamonix. This is another planet of housing, as pretty as it gets and built to keep people warm and uninundated by the undoubtedly copious winter snow. The houses crawled with roses and clusters of bright flowers.



The house we stayed in - a former sheepfold, which was (and is) no doubt
much needed in this place in winter. if you are a sheep. The stone walls
were about half a metre thick!


The mountains hang decoratively in the background.

The view from our flat.
As I wandered the narrow lanes between the houses - and nowhere seems to be more than 15 minutes or so from the town centre - my eyes gobbled up the vegetable gardens. I love to see others' vege gardens, especially lavish foreign ones! We are all united by our bellies, and I saw that people everywhere love to grow things and create beauty.


Here we were 1000 metres closer to the sun, with the 4,810 metre-high permanently snowy Mont Blanc decorating the sky nearby. All around were snowy ranges, and often the colourful sails of paragliders flying off the mountains (there are gondolas ascending them).

The air was clear and bright, and cleaner than clean. Next to Mont Blanc, an enormous blue-grey glacier rolled down towards us. And the humans clipped their roses, watered their flower pots, plucked their strawberries and considered what to serve with the salad greens that emerged from the soil they tended. Perhaps one of the 50 or so cheeses in their small local supermarket?

Food, flowers and great beauty - I was very happy.

Parisian gardens

It was not the gardens themselves that grabbed me in Paris. We are spoiled in Hamilton when it comes to impressive gardens, and in Europe I repeatedly thought that public gardens and palaces needed a team from Hamilton Gardens to come and advise them on style and maintenance. But I there were a couple of quirky things that caught my eye:

A scraggy vegetable in the shadow of the Notre Dame.

A goat in the Tuileries garden, central Paris. There was a slight bank and the grass
needed to be kept down. Why are you laughing? What's wrong with a goat
 in one of the world's most famous gardens?

England

Oh, the Oxford and the Cotswolds - is there anywhere in the world that does gardens better?

Magdalen College, Oxford.

Oxford Botanic Gardens

Christchurch College

Ebrington village, Cotswolds.

A vegetable garden in St James' Park, London. Buckingham Palace is at the opposite
end of the park.

Once my young nephew said "We speak different languages, but we all smile the same". Wise words from a little boy. As I travelled, I noticed that we definitely speak different languages, but we all like to grow things.

24 July 2018

Being pushed head-first into Stoicism

I first read about Stoicism on the Mr Money Mustache blog. Get ye there! I love his blog. By Stoicism, I don't mean the common sense of being stoic. That's just the barest edge of the concept. I mean the philosophy and way of life called Stoicism, which began with ancient Roman philosophers, and even an emperor.

Before I took my children off for big trip in May, I'd decided that when I got back, I'd look into it further. Then, fate took matters into its own and thrust me into Stoicism, perhaps a little bit more brutally than I'd prefer.

Just a random old city wall.

The thrust came in the form of having almost none of my belongings for 12 days. When we arrived in Rome from Seattle, via three flights, our bags were not on the carousel. My son had his, which consisted only of a jammed-full school bag that he took as carry-on luggage.

My well-aged backpack.

A change of clothes was much required in the 30 or so degree heat immediately after travelling 20 or so hours from Seattle. We were not at all fresh. So we found a market and bought the first things we remotely liked, thinking it was only a day or so before we had our own gear.

In the end we travelled to Southern Italy (Salerno), Venice and then Vienna before our bags were returned. Let's just say that Italy is not the easiest place to negotiate things like getting two bags back.

What I learned

If you have a bed, a shower, soap, water and food, your basics are covered. The three of us sleeping in the same room on two beds in our Rome airbnb were living in greater luxury than most humans ever have. We had running hot and cold clean water, glass windows, blinds, toothbrushes, clean towels and no live insects on us that were not microscopic (I have read that we all have minuscule ones on our eyelashes). We even had our very own clean bathroom with a bidet and toilet paper. Complainers, get over it and get on with it!

Our room in Rome.

We also had money to buy whatever we needed. When it came to clothing and toiletries, Lufthansa was paying us back.

Thinking about how bad things could be, and how much better off you really are, is a tenet of Stoicism.

There is a saying that Shit Happens. This another tenet of Stoicism: that bad luck happens to everyone. People are sometimes rude to you. Things go wrong. It is nothing personal, so get over it and instead use the energy and mindspace in more happy and productive ways.

So when it did happen - again and again on our trip, aside from the missing bags - I got over it reasonably quickly.

Almost all of our unpleasant things were outside our control. Indeed I spent so many days and hours worrying about all the things that were inside our control that those things were mostly sorted. We were never unavoidably late for a train, or couldn't find our lodgings, or were overly hungry or thirsty, or out of money.

Stoics distinguish between things they can control and things they cannot. In the latter case, they do not worry about them or expend energy on them. Which is why I love not watching the news.

And then at home ...

Last week I went to the supermarket. I saw a man holding up his son, mostly by putting his arm around him or walking with the boy between himself and the trolley. The son was a tall, slim boy like my own son, probably in his early teens. He tottered unsteadily on his toes; under his tracksuit pants was a nappy; his expressionless crossed eyes marred what would have been a handsome face; a strand of saliva dripped from his chin.

All the while the man chatted kindly to his boy; at the checkout he stroked his cheek lovingly.

I sniffed and looked at the ground and hoped nobody would speak to me, or I would cry.

My bright-eyed clever children were at home. I live a lucky life of luxury and privilege.

Then I went to the library. I heard the librarian showing a child how to search the online catalogue by author. They were trying for Roald Dahl, that most wonderful writer.

"Do you have a computer at home?" asked the librarian.

"I think so ... it's a CYFs house", said the girl, who looked about nine.  (CYFs is Child, Youth and Family - she had been put in a foster home.)

Afterwards the kindly foster mother told me she'd just arrived last night.

How would that feel?

The book

Not only were all our needs perfectly satisfied even without luggage (although perhaps not all our wants) but we even had electronic devices and a way to charge them! So in Europe I took the hint - after all, we were in the land of Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic emperor - and purchased an iBook on Stoicism on my second-hand phone bought for $40 from a 12-year-old who was upgrading.

Brief outcome: this is one of the most helpful books I have ever read. It's The Art of Living by Sharon Lebell and Epictetus. It's easy reading.

A book, a movie and a body down a toilet

I also bought, for $1.99, Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. It's a 200-year-old American classic I kept reading about, so thought it was about time I read it. The guy's a bit full of himself, and I skipped bits, but came across some real gems. He was a Stoic, whether he knew it or not.

As we had just come from the Colosseum and other monuments built by slaves for rulers determined to boost their own egos and secure their ongoing power, this sentence of Thoreau's really grabbed me:

“As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.”

(In a similar vein, I watched the movie Captain Fantastic on the plane. Watch this movie! I loved it. The wife, a Buddhist, asked for her body to be cremated and flushed down the toilet in a public place.)

Greek temple at Paestum, Southern Italy, a few thousand years old.
Malaria was one of the main factors that ended this outpost Greek civilisation.
The humble mozzie is so very powerful.

My boy's photo of the Colosseum, through a fancy filter on his second-hand iPhone.

We need to take great care about what we elevate in status in this world: it should not be buildings or clothes or cars or status. There is so much more.

So please don't think that the travelling we just did, with its terrible production of greenhouse gases, is anything to strive for. I think Marcus Aurelius and Thoreau would instead say something like "Be happy with what you have, and tend to your family, your friends, your garden, your community and your highest good with joy and gratitude".

Because one of the biggest things I've learned by going away is that home is a very good place.

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