One evening, in early 1976, I walked into the Third World Bookshop – my favourite book haunt – in Adelaide’s Hindley Street night quarter.
About twenty minutes later, I emerged with a book that was to help chart the course of my life.
Written in 1943, “The Have-More Plan – A Little Land and a Lot of Living” was destined to become one of the classics of the back-to-earth genre.
In just over 70 pages, authors Ed and Caroline Robinson provided their prescription for “how to make a small cash income into the best and happiest living any family could want.”
The book’s lifestyle promise proved to be an irresistible lure for me…to the point where we embarked on our own quest for self-sufficiency.
In late 1976, my family and I moved from suburban Adelaide onto a neglected 20-acre olive tree farm on the urban fringe.
In the ensuing years, we moved from one rented farmlet to another before buying our own house. While the addresses changed, the general self-sufficiency idea remained constant. We aspired to the Robinson’s suggestion of “the best and happiest living any family could want”…and we rode a learning curve like the Big Dipper.
We bred rabbits, goats and various breeds of poultry and waterfowl. We reared broiler chickens and pigs, milked two cows, grew olives and owned a 20hp grey “Fergie” tractor. These humble beginnings paved the way for my introduction to integrated backyard food production (Microponics).
Wind the clock forward thirty eight years…and The Have More Plan re-entered my life.
The need for information relating to a project led me to my bookcase and, as I shuffled through a box of books, suddenly there it was in my hands – my copy of ”The Have-More Plan.”
I re-read the book three times in the week after its re-discovery.
On the first such occasion, I experienced the same sense of exhilaration that I did when I first read it 38 years ago. I even found myself being drawn into the back-to-earth call to action.
The Have-More Plan is a reflection of its age. While much of its content is timeless, the book is a social snap-shot of the US middle class in the early 1940’s – complete with beliefs, values and behaviours to match the period.
During the second reading, I paused on the Robinson’s call-to-action – to move to a place in the country.
While being on acreage has its merits, much of what is discussed in the Have-More Plan is no less applicable to an urban backyard.
Most people, it seems, aspire to happiness and it’s my perception that they should be able to do that regardless of their age, ethnicity or financial circumstances…or whether they live in the city or the country.
It was during the third reading, that I realised that, for me, the real legacy of The Have-More Plan is the idea that the pathway to happiness is…self-reliance. What began as an attempt to underpin our own food self-reliance later branched out into other areas like finance, housing, and transport.
In acknowledgment of the impact that The Have-More Plan has had on my life, I’ve named my island micro-farm…Have-More Farm.
You can obtain a free PDF download of “The Have-More Plan”…HERE.
At the heart of the Have More For Less concept is my belief that happiness is the product of simple living and self-reliance.
My own self-reliance is achieved through:
- growing food
- exploring alternative shelter, energy and transport options
- designing and making – and mending things
- trading – selling and bartering
In this post, I provide some detail about those strategies. In so doing, I’m not suggesting that you should follow an identical path. This is simply what works for me.
Arguably, one of the most tangible indications that you are serious about self-reliance is the decision to assume control of your own food chain.
There are a variety of reasons for doing so and, principal among them, is food security….ensuring that you have food when you need it. Knowing where your food comes from, and what’s in it, is central to your health. Making intelligent food choices is not only good for you; you’re helping the planet out, too. By the way, implicit in any discussion of food is acknowledgment of the need for potable water.
A less tangible (but no less important) benefit of growing food is the self-confidence it invests in you.
If the words ‘grow your own’ inspire thoughts of traditional gardening…with all of its digging, weeding and other hard work – relax! It doesn’t need to be that way. There are literally dozens of food production strategies that don’t require a shovel or garden fork.
Of course, there are also ways to access clean fresh food that don’t require you to grow it yourself. You can buy it directly from others who grow it – and still reap the financial and health benefits. You can also underpin food security by setting up your own food bank…stockpiling non-perishable essentials as a hedge against hard times.
The important message here is to take control of your food chain.
Shelter – Energy – Transport
Once you’re had something to eat and drink, your next survival requirement is shelter.
Regardless of whether they are buying or renting, keeping a roof over their head is the biggest expense for most people. Even those who have freehold ownership of their homes will be shelling out substantial amounts of money for insurance, rates, taxes, utilities (like water and sewerage) – and maintenance.
Most people require a loan to buy a house. Many of them will then spend the next 25 to 35 years paying off that loan. Known as the ‘mortgage trap’ this process is an issue for two reasons. Firstly, the sheer amount of life energy that has to be directed to the repayment of housing loans is huge. Second, is the insidious affect that it has on personal freedom. All manner of life choices will be made to mitigate against the risk of not being able to pay that mortgage.
You may have to work in situations that you detest simply because of the captive impact of your mortgage. It’s no exaggeration to say that, for many people, home ownership means decades of anxious scrutiny of the quarterly central bank interest rate announcements.
My interest in alternative housing is largely driven by the desire to demonstrate that people don’t need to be victims of the mortgage trap. They don’t even need to subject themselves to the indignity that often accompanies the renting of residential property. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can be employed to offset the cost of shelter. They just require a little ‘outside of the box’ thinking.
I treat the whole matter of housing as an adventure…a challenge. I live in a tiny house – not because I have to – but rather because I enjoy it. The cost effective provision of providing your own shelter is liberating and no less of a boost for your self-confidence than growing your own food.
Living without electricity is possible but, for most people, not all that practical. Buying electricity through a power company is increasingly expensive but there are things that you can do to reduce your energy costs.
Transporting one’s goods – and oneself – is also an important (and prospectively expensive) part of conventional living. For convenience sake, I treat them as part of my housing deliberations.
Suffice to say, at this stage, the exploration of alternative housing, energy and transport is a cornerstone of the Have More For Less concept.
Designing, Making and Mending
The procurement of goods and services costs money but, the more you can do for yourself, the less expensive it gets.
Eating out will cost you more than growing and preparing your own food. Building your own furniture and making and maintaining your own clothes will also save heaps of cash.
Acquiring practical knowledge and skills not only reduces the cost of living but will also assist you to generate income.
Trading – Buying, Selling and Barter
If you’re like most people, there will be some of life’s essentials that you’ll struggle to provide for yourself and that’s where trading becomes a part of your self-reliance program.
Trading is business…selling products or services. People have been doing it for thousands of years and, in its most fundamental form, it’s easy to do, too.
Long before money existed, people used barter – a system of exchange where good or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services – without using a medium of exchange – like money.
To summarise…HMFL is about growing food, living comfortably, design and making, getting around and selling stuff. It’s about building an enjoyable and sustainable lifestyle in which time assumes a greater value than money.
In my next post, I’ll reveal how a chance encounter with a little book set me on the path to food self-sufficiency.
I like to share and discuss these ideas with others. To that end, I invite you to go to www.havemoreforless.com.
I have an abiding interest in happiness.
Having experienced unhappiness (in many of its various forms), I can state categorically that I much prefer happiness. In fact, its pursuit underpins everything I do.
So, what is it?
Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines happiness as…
…a state of well-being and contentment.
Why is it important?
Well, as it turns out, happiness is apparently what the overwhelming majority of people want from life.
Hundreds of people have attempted to put the concept of happiness into words but, for me, nobody put it more succinctly than Aristotle when he said…
Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life; the whole aim and end of human existence.
But knowing what it is – and why its important – is one thing. Knowing how to achieve it is a very different thing.
The research that surrounds happiness is apparently abundant and, while the numbers vary slightly from one author to another, the consensus suggests that it is the result of three things – our genetics (50%), our circumstances (10%) and our intentional activities…the things we do on a day-to-day basis.
While there’s not much that we can do about our genetics, the clear message is that half of the things that determine our happiness are within our span of control. In other words, it’s up to us!
Even cursory reading of writings on the subject tells us that:
- Happiness is a personal responsibility. You have to determine what it means for you and you have to bring it about. You cannot rely on anyone or anything else for your contentment and well-being.
- Happiness should not be postponed. In life, there are no guarantees and so happiness must be viewed as a journey rather than a destination. Grab it where you can.
- Happiness requires two things – actions and decisions. It’s not going to happen for the simple act of wishing.
- Happiness is a skill…and the more you practice it, the better you get at it.
To summarise: Being happy – the state of well-being and contentment – is a worthwhile personal goal. Indeed, it should be our absolute priority and, since it’s within our grasp, we should be ridding ourselves of anything that stands in our path. Each of us is solely responsible for its definition and execution…and for our own outcomes – and that should happen without delay…every day!
That’s the WHAT of happiness. While we’ll periodically explore that in greater depth, the real focus of www.garydonaldson.net – is the HOW.
I contend that the pursuit of Happiness – through Simple living and Self-reliance – enables us to Have More For Less. Conversely, Have More For Less is the pursuit of Happiness through Simple Living and Self-reliance.
If you’re interested in what I have to say about happiness, I invite you to visit regularly and, if you’d like to discuss it – and exchange ideas on its attainment – feel free to drop around to the Have More For Less forum.
If you’re like me, the probability is that you were raised with the idea that if you did what you were told – and studied hard – then you would get a good job…and be happy.
I started to detect cracks in that proposition when I was very young. The highest academic achiever in my first year high school class did as he was told, studied hard – qualified as a doctor…and then took his own life. That, and many other inconsistencies during the ensuing decades convinced me that, as a life strategy, the ‘be good, study hard, get a good job, be happy’ idea was flawed at best – and an outright lie, at worst.
If we follow the trajectory of most of those who subscribed to this idea, what we really see are people who actually struggled to put themselves in a position where they got to work for others…for up to 50 years…on the understanding that they could then please themselves about what they did with what remained of their lives.
Of course, that all assumed that things went according to plan.
It assumed that your ‘good’ job paid enough for you to accumulate enough to survive with dignity – much less to ‘please’ yourself. It assumed that you managed to avoid the substantial list of natural (and man-made) disasters that were generally regarded as ‘acts of god’ – a general description for the calamities that befall people for which no one is taking responsibility. It assumed that you avoided life’s bastards – the bandits who prayed on the soft targets who were busily following the prescribed societal direction. It assumed that you remained in good health in an environment that directly discriminated against good health. It also assumed that you actually lived long enough to get your share of the social promise.
Most importantly, however, it required you to surrender your freedom for the greater part of your life in pursuit of ends for which there were no guarantees.
Let’s remember that these are the folks who got a ‘good’ job.
Those who did not do well in an educational environment set up by the ‘haves’ often found themselves working in ‘minimum wage’ jobs that did not even provide the food, shelter and other necessities of a civilised and dignified existence. These were the ‘have nots’ that were destined to become factory fodder for the ‘haves’.
Then there’s the sick, the aged, the minorities, the traumatised veterans and those who otherwise struggled to function within the societal framework established by the folks who own it.
Now, whether you subscribe to my view of how things work – or not – is not important…and nor is it the point of this post. The important thing is to understand that, for so many people, the social promise was/is not delivering.
The next thing to determine is whether you’re one of them.
- Getting older and find that, as life should be getting easier, it’s actually becoming much harder.
- A parent of young children who is locked in a day-to-day struggle to make ends meet.
- Concerned about the looming gap between the world’s population and its capacity to feed itself in the face of pollution, aquifer depletion, desertification, erosion, climate change and the other serious environmental threats confronting us.
- A young adult wondering how you will ever achieve the ‘the great Australian (or other country’s) Dream’ of home ownership.
- On a treadmill, working for people who don’t respect you or your abilities.
- Approaching ‘retirement’ and an increasingly uncertain future.
- Marginalised, disadvantaged or disenfranchised…or lacking any sense of control over your own life and its circumstances.
- Convinced that the world is facing an imminent survival threat.
- Tired of the growing hoard of bastards who are roaming through your pockets with a sense of entitlement.
- Just someone who is seeking a more fulfilling life.
…then you’ve taken the first step toward a more satisfying life…simply by acknowledging your dissatisfaction with the status quo.
The good news is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel…and it’s not the train.
It’s called happiness…and it should be your highest priority.
In my next post, we’ll explore what happiness is…and then, in subsequent posts, we’ll get into how it’s possible to have more for less – with happiness as a consequence.
Welcome to garydonaldson.net.
Let’s begin with a brief explanation of what the site is really about, how it came into being…and then I’ll talk about what it seeks to achieve.
Websites are like children in several respects…not the least of which that, if you have too many of them, they are subject to neglect. That was certainly the case with me. My Microponics site was only getting updated spasmodically and the home of the Urban Aquaponics Manual (long overdue for revision) was similarly neglected. My old forum Aquaponics HQ (now Aquaponics Nation) had changed hands but I was still its principal contributor.
Suffice to say, I had stuff everywhere. The other problem was that, since most of my content involved food production, my websites never fully represented the scope of my interests.
So, in early 2017, I decided to rationalise my various sites – and my collection of domain names. It was time to develop content in one place – and to conduct the discussions around my interests in another. That’s it…just two websites. And Facebook! Like it or loathe it, everybody is there so I use it as a billboard to announce my latest mutterings.
In an attempt to lend some order to the process, I listed my various interests. Long story short, a pattern (and life purpose) emerged and the Have More For Less discussion forum…a place where I can share and discuss ideas about self-reliance and simple living…was the outcome. Over time, I plan to transition the content from my old sites to this one and the HMFL forum.
I’ve been blogging and self-publishing for over 13 years…and I like it.
While the HMFL platform is certainly fit for the purpose of discussion, it’s blogging capabilites leave much to be desired. The other problem with discussion forums is that it appears that their owners should set a behavioural standard for the other participants. If I have to behave on HMFL, then I need someplace that I can say what I want without having to tread the minefield of people’s feelings.
This is that place.
Note: I’ll endeavour to identify content that is likely to offend so that it might be avoided…by those of gentle disposition, the politically correct…and my old mum.
In effect, the blog aspect of www.garydonaldson.net is a gateway. It’s here that I’ll also introduce various ideas related to HMFL (and all of its aspects) with the idea that any ensuing discussion can take place back on the forum. I’ll then post a link to my Facebook pages and groups for those who can’t fathom a universe outside of Facebook.