Sunday, 21 August 2016

Pursuing What Matters

As a PhD candidate in Norway, I get a personal budget to spend on research and research-related travels. I have not used much of it yet, as I have been thinking about a good way to spend it. It is difficult to know what you want to pursue early on, because in the beginning everything seems interesting and it is difficult to choose. But as you get more into the topics, you start to see clearly what you would like to explore in more detail.

During summer I came up with a plan.

Norway can be quite a lonely place and therefore I felt like doing something that requires me to meet like-minded people and to connect with them. Also, my personal moneyless / rewilding experiences have allowed me to experience first-hand the changes in thinking that result from this new way of being, which is not always easy to understand for others who have not had these experiences, nor is it easy to explain. I would love to learn to communicate about this more effectively; not just from my own personal experience, but also from a deeper understanding of the processes involved and how the mind works. Furthermore, I would like this information to be available to everyone, so that it will be much easier for everyone to make decisions about their lives and so that we can all understand the consequences of our lifestyle choices for our own health and happiness (even when -or especially when- you think that you don't really have a choice!).

And so that is what I would like to get into and explore further: what kind of changes happen when people live alternative, more self-sufficient lifestyles? And what makes this so?

To investigate this further, I will be interviewing everyone I have come to meet (virtually until now) who lives (or has lived) without money or with very little and as self-sufficiently as possible as a conscious lifestyle choice. Most probably I will also look at the other side: people who disapprove of such a lifestyle. I think the personal budget is a great opportunity for me to research this, as I think it would be difficult to find funding for such a project otherwise. Luckily, my supervisor is very supportive and it is thanks to him that I will be able to carry out this plan very soon.

I will be traveling to the US next month for the first set of interviews. Unfortunately there was no way for me to avoid flying. However, the next trip goes all the way to Australia, and I will attempt to get there without flying. I will be taking a train all the way to Singapore and then find a way (hopefully) to get to Australia by ferry / sailing. Along the way I will be meeting people who live alternative, mostly self-sustainable lives (or the other side of the coin: people who strongly reject people who pursue such lifestyles). I will aim to rely on Couchsurfing as much as possible so that I can familiarize myself more easily with the countries I am visiting and have yet another opportunity to connect with amazing individuals. It will also help me to extend the trip even further and collect more data.

If you know anyone you think I should meet, please let me know! Also feel free to get in touch if you would like to host me or want to organize an event with me. I am open to doing workshops, speaking events, etc.

Source: - Silk route
If you are in a similar predicament and would like some guidelines on how to spend research budget, go for the following:
1. Choose something you are really passionate about
2. Choose something that is unlikely to get funded if you would submit it as a project directly
3. Choose something that can potentially change the world for the better in a big way (because we need that!)

The same goes for choosing a career.

I hope to meet many of you along the way!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Forager's Diet - What I've Been Eating So Far

Since starting the Foraging Challenge, I have been learning a lot about plants. It is not as easy as I thought, because each time of the year (and location) offers its own menu of delicious foods to choose from. This means you can't just learn about basic plants and rely on those for the whole year. Also, with wild foods (as well as store-bought foods), variety is very important, because most plants are not healthy to consume in very large quantities. So small quantities of many different ingredients is important to stay healthy.

I will continue researching edibles for the rest of the year, so that I learn about many of the different foods that nature offers throughout the year. Here is an update on some of the things I have been eating so far:

Ground Elder
Without a doubt one of my favorites in early spring! Very mild and pleasant taste, but later in the year the flavor changes and the leaf becomes tough and stringy, even if the plant remains small. Not recommended in late spring / early summer.

Pine Pollen

For a short time during spring, pine trees start to fill the air with yellow dust: pine pollen. You can easily harvest some by walking around with a clean plastic bag, putting the bag around each branch, shaking it lightly and moving on to the next. You can add the pollen to smoothies or eat it as is. No need to break the branches or damage the tree in other ways. Just shake some off. Great taste and very healthy!

Mushrooms (Penny Bun)

Penny Bun is very tasty, available in rainy times (late summer until autumn). There are many different kinds of mushrooms though and it is recommended not to try any unless you are very sure about the species you have harvested. Some can be very poisonous! Can work great as a meat substitute.

Also one of my favorite springtime treats! Not just because of their flavor, but also because they can be eaten safely in relatively large quantities. When they get bigger, they lose much of their flavor though. Spring offers a lot of nutricious vegetables, including chickweed. It comes in several variants: Giant chickweed, mouse-ear chickweed and common chickweed (the tastiest and the one pictured above).

Lambs Quarters

Also one of my favorites and available here in very large quantities in (early) summer time. As with most plants, it tastes best when the plant is still young (or else you can just use the tops). Tastes a bit like spinach. Great raw as well as stir-fried.

Sea Weeds

Most nutritious during spring time, sea weeds are a great source of minerals and vitamins. As far as I know, all sea weeds are edible, but still it is best to identify the species you have harvested to make sure it is in fact edible and to find out the best ways to prepare it as food. Also great dried (can be ground into flour as well).

Berry season has finally started (end of July), so at the moment I harvest berries every day. I love all of them! Here we mostly have blueberries, wild strawberries, gooseberries, redcurrant, blackcurrant and cloudberries. I have also found wild cherries (technically not a berry, but still delicious).

By the way, I have yet to taste a food that is as delicious as wild strawberry. It is my all-time favorite wild food up until this moment and no other food even comes close to the rich and wonderful flavor of the wild strawberry. Taste it once and you may never want store-bought strawberries again.

Eating berries interestingly has made me want to stop using traditional toilets, because it helps complete the circle of life (and obviously it is way better for the environment).

I will continue learning about free foods as I go along to build up to another attempt of living off the land 100%.