Seize The Day

After our volunteering in Cornwall we moseyed through some national parks, namely Dartmoor, Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons. Upon visiting these national parks we were naturally impressed with the landscape, they were beautiful, and still are. Yet a recent comprehension of ecological succession and land use practices throughout the UK, helped along by one George Monbiot and his poignant and revealing book, Feral, it was difficult at times for us not to dream of what these landscapes could be if managed more effectively, be they left to re-wild completely or otherwise.

Whistman's Wood, Dartmoor. Saved from grazing and the plow by the Granite boulders the ancient Oaks grow through
Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor. The ancient oaks saved from grazing and the plow by the granite boulders that surround them.

After all this time in the greenery it was time to take on another of our little plans; a family pass to the Green Gathering festival. We’d organised this one once we’d came out the other side of our ‘Trouble in Paradise’. This is a festival with the tag line, ‘a sustainable festival for all our futures’. Every festival since it’s inception has been powered by wind, sun and people, and this year the festival was branded as ‘Performance Meets Permaculture’.

All set
All set

As with so many festivals of this nature, where we’re attempting to re-imagine the future, and are surrounded by strong, intelligent and active people, there’s such a strong sense of what could be if only we’d all be open and willing enough to completely reassess, acknowledge and act upon all the mistakes we’ve made. In short, along with Laura’s brother and family from Hedgehog Hill Farm, this experience felt like the breaking of a dam wall of inspiration.

Green Gathering
Beyond Hedonism

The highlight of the festival, besides meeting the ever charismatic Charlie Mcgee of Formidable Vegetable Soundsystem, whilst engaged in a Children & Permaculture workshop fronted by Robina McCurdy, was getting to watch Seize The Day. This band is the musical actualisation of what you wished Bob Dylan would have done, could have done, if he’d maintained his protest edge. They’re like a combination of the political side of Billy Bragg (on fire), the spirit and get up of Fela Kuti in his Afrikan Shrine, mixed with the truth, honesty and folk of an old weathered, leather-faced, drunken Scotsman playing his heart out for just one more glass of whiskey all the while revealing the harsh brutality of our world with a smile.

Now that we had a soundtrack it was time to ready ourselves for a trip across a continent.

Seize The Day

On The Road

Our first stop in our green beast, (aptly and fairly named Arvan “our van” by our two year old) was Carmathenshire in South West Wales for a stay with Laura’s brother, his wife and their two boys on their recently purchased 16 acre small-holding, Rhiw Draenog or Hedgehog Hill Farm.

Hedgehog Hill Farm
Hedgehog Hill Farm

They had also experienced a similar disillusionment with our human predicament and had been looking into permaculture as a positive solution. They had sold their house in the suburbs of southern England and found a gem of a property in Wales. They were a few steps further along the path than us and were equally nervous/excited/daunted by the prospect of building and creating a life with positive repercussions for the future. We were lucky enough to camp in their garden (house paddock) for a month and get used to our new living conditions.

Arvan in Pooh Corner
Arvan in Pooh Corner

This initial part was particularly hard due to the fact it was such a large change, Fionn was in Herefordshire for the first 10 days, and our little girl making regular complaints along the lines of “Tweety birds, no! Where are the Nee-Nors?!” making things rather challenging for Laura. But gradually as we began seeing the direct results of working together as an extended family the initial awkwardness faded.

A family of wheelbarrows.
A family of wheelbarrows.

This short period became a great learning experience for all involved, as Laura’s brother’s family had only recently moved into their current house (with no windows!), we had the fortuitous opportunity of learning some of the baby steps phase together. Once Laura’s brother’s two boys took our little lady under their wing, showed her the best hiding places in the long grass, got stuck into some of the hard graft, gave her ride-arounds on their toy tractors and most importantly showed her where to source the blackberrys, things became a great deal easier, and the familial re-wilding came into it’s own.

Digging out a polytunnel in Wales
Creating a self watering polytunnel
Cob Oven - almost there
Cob Oven – almost there

In the process of building a cob oven, coppicing a great deal of Hazel, mulching even more Monkey Puzzles, swimming in their little stream umpteen times among many other things, we  would often get far too excited about how things should be implemented and slowly came to understand that everyone needs to make their own decisions and their own mistakes in their own time. Since leaving we’ve been able to see and have begun to comprehend how ideas, like those at Hedgehog Hill Farm, can develop into future masterpieces regardless of what anyone else says, against the current, against all nay sayers. With this seed of inspiration and optimism we set off for Cornwall.

Looe
Looe, Cornwall

We had volunteered to help out at on an organic farm whilst they ran a Permaculture Design Course. This experience couldn’t have been richer and more engaging. The venue – Keveral Organic Farming Community, the people – beautiful, intelligent, open, endlessly inquisitive, and the subject matter were everything we were hoping for and more. We felt we had found our tribe.

Keveral PDC Trobe

This experience took us to some places that were on our lengthy list of ‘places to see that inspire’, including Martin Crawford’s forest garden at the Schumacher College and the Land Matters Cooperative. It also gave us direct experience in foraging (not just for a few bits but near on entire meals),  woodcraft, mushroom cultivation, and other basic survival skills that have left an indelible mark. We also had the great pleasure of being able to sit in on lessons, when not preparing food, from some of the best teachers the UK has to offer.

Picking wild plums in the food forest
Picking wild plums in the food forest

We’ve been able to keep in touch with many of these beautiful people since this time and we’re not surprised but are very pleased to see and know that we’re all applying ourselves as best we can to various projects all over the world. Such a special moment in time for us and our little family, one not soon to be forgot.

All this and the summer was just beginning.

 

Trouble in Paradise

It’s very easy to get caught up in the world, to forget to be human. It would seem right at the point everything was ready to happen it very nearly all fell apart.

We had our land, we understood largely what needed to be done in order to provide for ourselves and were working towards it on a daily basis. Yet somewhere between finding this future paradise and making the life changing shift to occupy the land and the lifestyle, we both fell victim to seemingly separate ailments that had a very similar core.

life-is-what-happens-to-you-while-you-are-busy-making-other-plans

With the ever humbling application of 20-20 hindsight we now know where and how it happened. We had become so preoccupied with the end goal and our future that there was no room left for living in the present. Fionn always pushing, backed by an aggressive holier-than-thou moral code and Laura ever cautious, and overtly sentimental. We had become too attached to an idea well before it’d even begun. These two things nearly broke us as we both continued to fight to be heard.

As many couples do in such situations we took a break from each other, reassessed what needed to change, made drastic attempts to change them, all while drip feeding each other new information about our individual progress. The ideas that kept resurfacing were stillness of mind and presence of being. Why work towards something that’s making us forget why it is we’re doing it in the first place? We wanted to make the world a better place and were destroying each other and those around us in the process.

Never miss

So we pulled the plug. We wanted to get out and see and do while we still could, before we got down to some serious work on our farm, we thought, ‘Let’s live now, now!’ Seems ridiculously simple, but at the time it was one of the most challenging processes we’ve ever attempted, and are still attempting to this day.

Another issue that became clear was that the convenience of living in a modern city was about as far away from our idealised future as possible. First we decided we needed to declutter. It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate over a few years, particularly when you’ve got a child. We also needed to get out of the city, find some open air, and some stillness. Laura wanted to re-embrace an aspect of her youth, and it seemed an old Combi van would help her do that, which worked in nicely with the ‘out of the city’ thing. Fionn wanted to finish something he’d signed on to do in India years ago; a ten day silent retreat, and signed on for a trip to Herefordshire, which nicely tied up the ‘stillness’ aspect.

With these things in mind we decided not to renew the lease on our flat, effectively making us homeless. Then we sold and gave away all our stuff, well the vast majority of it, and put in boxes the bare necessities, tucked them away in Laura’s parents attic (thanks Nanna & Papa x), then hit the road. All three of us in our little green Combi van.

Nietzsche

 

 

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑