Oh You United Kingdom You

It’s rather hard to put succinctly the feeling of returning to this wet little island known as the United Kingdom. It’s a little like putting on one of your old pair of shoes; a little musty, possibly mouldy, but comfortable, welcoming and if a little spit and polish is applied as good as the day you first wore them. Upon stepping into these old shoes we’ve encountered old and new projects, rekindled friendships and developed some anew.

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Making the time for some toddler led yoga with old friends

The unifying theme it would seem of the trip was in fact contrast. The individuality of this unifying movement known collectively as permaculture, has presented itself to us beautifully. We’ve tasted the social and interpersonal aspects of it as shared through the nurturing mentorship of friends and acquaintances, like Klaudia Van Gool. We’ve had our comprehension of potential alternative systems of governance explained in detail by the likes of Andy Goldring , Maddy Harland and others. We’ve been taken in, wined, dined and toured wonderous living classrooms such as Karuna Insight Design and Lammas Ecovillage. And we’ve consistently tasted some of the finest forage we’ve ever had the pleasure to have dance on our taste buds. With each experience being presented to us with the personal flavour and splendour of the individuals themselves.

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One particularly special insight afforded us came from Karuna in the Shropshire hills. Fionn had been a WWOOFer here a few years ago and had been so taken by the place that he was adamant we had to return in whatever capacity. So when we managed to organise and co-teach an Introduction to Permaculture course there (a first for us, anywhere in the world!) it was serendipitous to say the least. Having the Wheelhouse’s allow us to share their space and guide us through their lovingly and painstakingly created ‘Sanctuary’ was truly a treat. The evidence of their care, their observation and their willingness to integrate seemingly disparate elements was and is everywhere to be seen.

All the variations we’ve been able to sample in this brief time has been a testament to the movement itself. Be it demonstrated in a social manner, through animal husbandry, large scale forest gardening, back yard tampering, or completely altering one’s life to continue the spread of vital, inspirational information pertaining to the continuation of sustainable means and livelihoods.

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The windmill water pump at The Green Gathering

As we pack our bags for our return we’re thankful for so much. All these beautiful beings have again roused and shaken our understanding of what it is and what it means to be alive. With these memories in our hearts we happily venture forward into the next chapter of our little part in the quiet revolution.

 

The Ebb & Flow of the Good Life

To hear the sound of a new family members’ pelvis being crushed under the wheel of your utility vehicle is something that is likely to disturb sleep. To have an official looking man in an official looking car, wearing an official looking suit arrive at your house and tell you you’re officially unofficial (living illegally), is also likely to create restless slumber…

These are certain experiences that have ‘touched’ our lives lately, so forgive us for not writing an update a little sooner. We’ve been somewhat preoccupied. Not to worry though, there has been some marvellous aspects, however we’ll get to those later in an attempt to leave you on a high note.

So the opening sentence may have some thinking we ran over our own or someone else’s new born child. Not so. It was our most recent addition, the first live-in domestic animal on the farm. 4 month old Blue Heeler cross, Thida. She was a trooper. A nipper, heel biter, hand shaker, back talking little wonder dog. At only 4 months old and only 2 of those with us on the farm it’s incredible just how much of an impact she’s made on us in her short time. We needn’t go into details, though we know there’s dog owners and lovers out there who feel our pain. So we’ll give you a shot of the little legend, and move on before we all well up and can’t read or write any longer.

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Now onto that official looking man arriving at our caravan door. It was a man from the local council who had come to tell us that what we were doing didn’t fit the bill. We weren’t to be occupying our own land for more than 2 days a week, and 60 days in a year, we needed a more stable grey water system (one of their approved cement boxes to be precise), and that some of the holes we’d dug to support our yurt were not written down in his little book and therefor we had had to stop work and were lucky we were only getting a warning. There’s some fairly colourful language that we’d have liked to use, and there’s a great deal that could be said about the real crimes of humanity, though we’ll spare us all and allow your imagination to do all that for you.

Our own compost toilet not dissimilar to this one
Our own compost toilet not dissimilar to this one

One of the more interesting aspects of his arrival was that he inquired as to whether or not we were ‘doing permaculture’, and upon our muted nod and vague shrug, he added whether or not we knew Mr Lawton from down the road, less of a reaction from us proceeded. An eye brow raised and a sheepish smile perhaps. To which he informed us that Mr Lawton had had some trouble with the council in the past, though had now begun to tow the line, and had learned from his mistakes… It would seem someone at council has a bad impression of permaculture. What a shame. What a pity.

The most interesting of these events though seemed to come when we had to explain this to our three year friend and offspring. Questions as simple as “Why can’t we live here?” were unpacked and dismantled in the plainest of language that had us reeling at the madness of the world. “Because we don’t have a ‘proper’ toilet”. It also led to the consolidation of the idea of us not necessarily being ‘free’. We have our cage, albeit much larger than many, where by those who wield the power can enter at any time and coerce us to behave in the manner dictated by those who wield more power. A strong sense of being distrusted prevailed. As though if we were left to our own volition we’d somehow mess it all up. The irony of the fact that we’re here doing what we are because of the dominant paradigms inability to manage itself so far seemed to be lost on the Compliance Officer (official title on the card), who we’re guessing is yet to read into the non-fiction elements of any of the famous future distopian novels (1984, Brave New World, The Island).

The burning question remained; are we as a race so incapable, so lackluster that we need to be so closely monitored? Only to be answered by a resounding… Perhaps. Which in it’s own way has given us further impetus to push on and prove the point of permaculture, of a good life, of self sufficiency, that those with a basic foundation of a strong ethical and moral code can, will and do look after not only themselves but their community and in turn their bio-region, nation, and world.

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