Is it because I am a second child and learned from the word go to make do with stuff that had been owned, used and sometime even loved by others before me, or is it that in the seventies my mother taught me to salvage things discarded by rich neighbours, the thing is I have a natural penchant for recycling, I am a natural at giving rusty metal pieces a loving home, or keeping—like my grandmother before me—anything that might prove useful in later life.
I thus made the most of the few days that my children went away on their own pursuits and got myself accepted on a residency up north, working with US craft-artist Boris Bally and discarded road signs in the hope that some public seating for the town of Derry might emerge out of the equation.
I had a lot of fun with plugged-in big machines, learned to file properly, drooled over some lovely tools, acquired some skills that may even prove useful for my everyday life.
In the age of wall-to-wall advertising, of being told what we want by others so that we all succumb to mass desire of identical industrialised products, it is lovely to be able to find real value in what has been discarded, the gizzards and bones of other peoples’ expensive meals so to speak, and perchance turn “refuse” into very treasurable stuff. In a word, I enjoyed myself enormously.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. Albert Einstein
I have 40 bales of organic hay earmarked in someone else’s shed for my goats’ next Winter, the minimum to get it home-delivered and a nice comfortable quantity to meet any length of cold-weather grassgrowthlessness I hope. I have not been in a position to cut hay this year, pretty short-armed, but I now reflect that I perhaps should not aim to cut hay in my 4.8 acres, that if I keep the goats’ manure for the garden I am impoverishing my soil everywhere the goats eat or the hay is cut. I look at the apple trees whose soil have provided me with hay in the past years and they seem to sing some kind of lament to me. I am listening, I will chop all the grass that has grown in the orchard in situ and let it mulch, rot, mould, compost, enrich. On the same note instead of giving myself a hard time over my lack of endurance I am now rejoicing that I lost breath before the last field was fenced, thus keeping it out of the goats rotation and getting a fallow year.
I am writing little but thinking actively outdoors, brushed by spiders’ nest knitted overnight and hazel branches laden with pale growing nuts and—despite being regularly chewed by horseflies—enchanted by the sweet smells of August. I read a lot of Raj Patel’s wonderful book about the whys, hows and wrongs of the global food system, Stuffed and Starved, a couple of years ago, and I was delighted to recently come across his 2011 lecture at UC Berkeley Feeding the World which is wonderfully entertaining and recommended viewing for anyone who likes to eat every day. Skip the first 6 minutes, jump in and enjoy, it is completely inspiring, enlightening and funny (my children aged 12 and 14 agree). This is a man who I think asks the right kind of questions.
[See the last photograph overhead, well this is the plum version of the easy-peasy cake I advised you to make a few posts ago, this is just to add that it worked beautifully with these absolutely tasteless plums]
I might as well admit that I am planning to live to be 100. I have always been fond of old women and I think I’ll make a nice quirky one. That leaves me with 53 more years of cooking and eating, 53 more years of creative work, more physical at this end and more contemplative at the other I guess ; so I have an open list of what I’d like to try my hand at, what I feel I would enjoy. So far I have included making things like ceramic, furniture, big wooden objects, fabric design, clothes, but there are plenty more like getting better at juggling, trying to raise snails, getting a tunnel, writing more, remembering my German and learning Italian.
In the shorter term I am looking at what grows well for me in the soil that I work with, what I can raise happily, and how I can transform what I produce inventively in order to sell it at a price that justifies the work I would have put into it. I look at my decision to live on the land and to produce food first and foremost for my people as a political rather than a lifestyle choice. I like that when I am hoeing my soil I can feel that my gesture echoes so many on the earth’s surface this day and ever since the invention of tools. It is important for me to put as much of my own physical energy in my physical survival and in that to feel included in the side of humanity that I have so much respect for.
Here I am, on a Sunday in July, alive indeed, happy, and dreaming up my hand-made life on the earth’s surface, bobbing on the tide that the universe breathes in and out and tasting the water as I go. Fun.
I have been away leaving G, my neighbour, in charge of feeding the animals : a holiday of sorts for a handful of days, very far away and always closer to me, slow progress, a car, a train, a boat, a lot of sitting down and looking and seeing, a lot of waiting, walking, a drive, a field full of people I had never met before. Wait, remembering to breathe, to make a wish, I am safe. I felt a lot of things I do not necessary have words for, a lot took place outside of my head, farther than the mind, precious. Talked a lot, listened a lot, enjoyed people (and some may become friends), learned a new song, stretched my awareness.
I came back in a little cloud of gratitude, it took a long time to feel I had landed back onto this soil although it feels I always carry it with me, but eh, the renewed perspectives ! A trip that was like a warm hug, and I like hugs. I had packed my tent, clothes and things in a large US postal bag loaded up onto a trolley I had bought when I was in New York in 1997, perhaps all travelling is linked somehow.
M gave me a fencing tool to bring back to my everyday, I did not mention it but he must have guessed that I treasure rusty metal and would not mind the added weight. A tool for cutting metal and stretching wire and remembering our conversations. A tool to hold and remember that when you struggle with your job in your field you are not alone, ever. I aim to send him a little parcel of hand-made things from fruit, leaf, wood or flower from here as barter.
I came back to enjoy steamed new potatoes, with butter and a basil leaf with every bite. Is that a recipe ? Perhaps it is too simple to be called a recipe, but it is indeed a marvel for July.
I have been on self-elected holiday from fencing since early last week, I have another large field and two addenda to do but earlier last week I admitted to myself that the mere idea of fencing exhausted me. I have worked really hard and am almost done as I got good help but I am a rather small human (with quite muscly arms) and fencing is a tough job. For the last few weeks I have been fencing against the clock making sure the next field was ready for the goats to move into. The idea is that the goats are rotated between fields staying a week or so in each before moving on to the next refreshed pasture. This is for food management and also to help them beat the parasite cycle. So they will go through a truncated cycle until I am ready to pick up my heavy fencing tools again.
Truanting from the Big Fencing Job all the little jobs that had been piling up don’t seem like jobs at all. I made delicious jam, infused honey and oils, cooked prolific Tayberries into a succession of cakes (like this one), fixed an old camping seat, sewn a bag, did some weeding, grass cutting, planting, and am now building clever wooden planters to stand around the house. A lot of outdoor pursuits but I did find time to read neglected copies of the London Review of Books too. Happy in the dry weather today, quite bitten by horseflies though.
Ignatia is an amazingly powerful Homeopathic remedy for grief.
Over the years it has helped me to deal with very deep grief locked inside my body that I felt was too large to face, that I felt had the power to engulf me, and it has allowed me to learn from it. To end my second year of professional training I had to choose a remedy to make a piece of work on, and I chose to make this short film as an exploration of the energy that took hold of my life in the past and that I am ready to let go of.
You do have to embrace your darkest corners (and then renounce the seduction of the pain too) to be able to fully embrace the light. I looked back and I am ready to stand up for my own life (in full sunlight gratefully today). Yes.