Epicurean Life: March 2023

Yes… December was much too cold. January too wet. And February was way above normal temperature wise. None of this bodes well for some of my marginal perennials that are only adapted to certain climate conditions.

Truthfully, though, I’m tired of focusing on the things that aren’t right that I can’t control. Lately, I’ve shifted focus to the joyful things. For example, our too warm February was heralded in by an incredibly large orchestra of American toads mating in our upper pond.

For several days, their soulful songs reverberated in a sonic symphony across our holler. This has subsequently led to an enormous amount of tadpoles in March.

As toads are known to be creatures of habit, who return regularly to their place of birth for mating and sustenance, the sight and sound of so many of them in our backyard pool sized pond filled me with pride.

I thought:

We did that. We installed that body of water. We encouraged the plant life all around. We turned an eroded, soilless spot on an overly steep slope into a thriving habitat for frogs and significant amounts of insects and other creatures to sustain them.

Pride Before the Fall

That sense of pride in accomplishment only lasts as few minutes though before the awe and wonder take over. What we did was minimal compared to what the natural system contributed.

In culinary terms, we set the table. The natural system then supplied all the rest of the ingredients, prepared the feast, invited the guests, and turned our little bit of table decoration into something utterly unforgettable and enduring.

In moments like this — when I realize that nature is in fact a successful pyramid scheme wherein my tiny investment of time and materials lead to epic returns — I fall in love with this lifestyle all over again.

Passive Income

On a related note, I read an article this week about the fantasy of passive income being peddled by some influencers. The gist of the article is that what many people market and sell as ways to make “passive” income — isn’t passive at all!

Instead, it is

leveraged income — putting in time and effort in advance to earn recurring profits from selling, say, an online course or an e-book — or additional revenue from a side hustle (that is, more work).

NY TImes: What’s Passive Income? It’s Not What Influencers Say It Is.

In truth, most people just end up doing a lot of unsatisfying work and never making any income – passive, leveraged, or otherwise.

Frankly, I think if you really want guaranteed returns, you’re much better off investing in the the natural economy.

Natural Economy

The natural economy operates a bit differently from the financial economy. Leveraged investments do generally far outweigh their costs of time and resources. In the long run, the system becomes so much greater than any investment made, it truly qualifies as passive income.

Still, there are some important criteria for successful investment in the natural economy if you want to enjoy passive benefits later.

1. Diversify

You must diversify. You can’t have a thriving toad community without also having an abundance of plant, insect, and soil life.

2. Strategize

To get to that place of passive income from natural investment, you need to focus on nutrient cycling and ecological stability. In other words, set the table for a much bigger, more complex crowd than just the attendees you hope will come.

3. Think Long-term

Also, plan on being in it for the long-term. Yes… there are short term investments to be made and rewards to be reaped.

For example, planting a flat of violas or snapdragons, or letting winter weeds flower as bee food, are beautiful and beneficial. But thinking beyond momentary beauty and taking care of long-term structural problems like drainage or soil quality are critical.

Luckily, even a drainage ditch can be made beautiful with some thoughtful planning and durable materials. And the plants you use to protect your garden from wind (like my hedge of cold hardy kiwi and blackberry briars) can double as bird safe havens.

For truly passive returns, think 5, 10, 15, 50 years into the future. Invest in soil building, perennials that are right for your climate (and future climate), and incorporate natives to nurture the locals.

Influence Outcomes

I’ve given up the idea of thinking that I can control the weather, the success of all my seasonal crops, or even the health of every perennial in my garden. Instead, I focus on trends and the big picture.

As I look out over our landscape, in the context of a collapsing climate, I don’t see a system in decline. My little piece of the planet is alive with activity, improving all the time, and filling me with joy regardless of all the things I can’t control.

Of course, the passive income earned from natural investment isn’t just paid in possible dollars from selling products or savings on things you no longer have to buy. Payment usually comes in the form of pleasure, beauty, and the priceless peace of mind of working to protect our shared environment.

March is the perfect time to prime your landscape for many passive returns.

  • Start a frog pond.
  • Sow some wildflowers.
  • Become more tolerant of beneficial weeds.
  • Plant a pollinator-friendly flowering fruit tree.
  • Grow a flowering cover crop.
  • Start a compost pile.
  • Leave debris piles as “critter safe zones” until your temperatures are consistently warm.

Invest Time in Learning New Skills!

March is also the perfect time to attend an amazing, free, 10 day, online gardening festival to get lots more great ideas. (And hear me talk about “Weed-Free Gardening”.)

Click on the image below to register!


  1. What a beautiful reminder to focus on the joyful things in life and invest in the natural economy for passive returns. The author’s love for their thriving habitat for frogs and other creatures is inspiring.

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