Skip to content

skills for living softly but with good intent

29 September 2015


haymaking 3On the countertop in the kitchen I have a pile of the strange small bowls I have made to date as I learn to throw clay on the wheel. I have not eaten from all of them yet : is that the reason why I still resist putting them away with the other everyday vessels made by people I have never met? Or is it because I am as proud as a head lice (as we say in French) with my hand-painted production to date and it is a vibrant source of joy that should not be hidden away ?

Learning new skills, slow but determined progress.

haymaking 1

haymaking 4We are heading into leaf-collecting time to make good growing soil, but there are still a good few days left to cut branches to dry with leaves attached to feed to the goats this Winter. We have made hay by hand this year in the quietness of the fields, keeping ahead of the weather thanks to the Norwegian Meteorologisk Institutt.

A few years ago P had told me that I would not be able to use a scythe, that it was too tough on the back. It felt like a caring pronouncement that I basked in for a while, but I have since learned not to be limited by (other people’s) fears so I took to scything this year keeping my knees slightly bent in a most unphotogenic manner. What a wonderful tool and what a wonderful skill I will be working on as long as I stand. I think that my shortish frame is actually a real bonus for that work ! As I farm alone, with occasional help from my friendly children, embracing the fact that fossil fuel will not last forever, it is good to be able to—weather permitting—have all the skills to turn (free) (locally grown) (plentiful) grass into nutritious Winter fodder. Hay-ing is a job to do in company if possible : L came to share the work (cutting, turning, turning, turning, turning, turning, gathering) and share the proceeds : 52 bales moulded in the wooden hay press he built last year.

Living softly as I may, at peace with myself (took work to get there, good place to be). There are a lot of things that are happening farther from my reach, without my consent. I have hope in the future, faith in humanity and in our ability to learn what we need.

human, thus pretty (darn) visible, mending

10 September 2015

visible mending 4

visible mending

visible mending 3

visible mending 2

I prefer imperfection and honesty : time frays edges, moths have to eat too, usage wears things down. Visible mending, made by hand, is to me a work of art, see Tom of Holland, see Katrina Rodabaugh. In Japanese tradition it is definitely done by hand using Sashiko stitching, but I do it freestyle by machine mostly (when I can get away with it) onto everything around me, better than throwing away, losing memories, having to buy new.

To me the same principle applies to life’s wear and tear : patch and learn, sometimes slow, but do remember (visible mending) that you have suffered, that you are human and fragile.

Culture of Waste: Skipchen response to French supermarket law

6 August 2015
Featured Image -- 3778

M-A Djeribi:

Great post from The Bristol Skipchen (whose heart is in the right place…) who do great work.

Originally posted on the bristol skipchen :

Culture of Waste: Skipchen response to French supermarket ban on food waste.

In May France made headline news for taking the lead in the battle against food waste.

The legislation bans supermarkets over 1000 m2 from deliberately spoiling unsold edible food with chemicals and bans any edible food from going to landfill.

Instead, unsold edible food must be donated to local charities and redirected back into the human food chain or composted, fed to pigs or anaerobically digested to produce biogas.

The new law has been celebrated by many as an historic turning point in the fight against global food waste.

In a similar move, Tesco announced in June that they are trialling a scheme where charities can pick up unsold edible food for ‘free’ using an app.

However, we feel it is important to look beyond the click bait headlines and ask some important questions.

Does the legislation address…

View original 1,509 more words

Live long. See or Make beautiful things.

4 August 2015

a ray of sun

I have recently enough started to slowly learn step-by-step how to “throw” clay on a potter’s wheel : so far for me the magic of making weird and wonderful useful things to eat from. I have a lovely (male) teacher, but I am discovering inspiring women working at pottery into their later years, what a lovely thought. I did mention here my firm intention to live long.

So I’d like to salute here three beautiful women-potters, Lucie Rie, Beatrice Wood and Toshiko Takaezu in the order that I happened upon them and their work, they came forth to meet me. Lucie Rie lived until the age of 93 and made vessels that would truly speak to me : they may be photographed as museum pieces but I hear them say “be grateful to be alive, for the food that you have as you eat from me”.

Do watch this heart-warming film showing Beatrice Wood in action : her beautiful spirit kept her alive until she was 105, you can understand when you see and listen to her.

This portrait of Toshiko Takaezu (1922-2011) starts with her talking about the magic of growing vegetables so we do inhabit the same planet.

current soundtrack to my rather rural existence

3 June 2015


hair sticks

the excellent Kitchen counter-culture or Kitchen-counter culture blog where I usually find inspiration of another ilk, led me to Zoe Boekbinder, and I am grateful. Love this great song (and many more too) and also love the stop-action animation video, her world looks pretty good to me.

Sufjan Stevens, Carrie and Lowell, the whole album (a masterpiece, no less) in a loop on deezer (a great music streaming site), not every day, but most (got a nudge from canal ways for this one).

It is true that I listen to Richard Hell and the Voidoids in the car but I like my music more mellow too, like, at this minute, Sea Wolf, start perhaps with Black Leaf Falls below, which I discovered here, but also try some Bavarian Porcelain with your tea next.

and you may yet jump up and down with Marseille-based collective Chinese Man feat. Tumi, “bring on the marching band…”.

And there is also Benjamin Clementine… and Hollie Cook’s new album…

new furry lives…

2 June 2015

little kid


just born triplets


A lot has happened. The wonder of it all. Twins, twins and triplets. Lost the only single-born baby, then its mother who not so long ago had looked the strongest of them all. Questioned it all : Am I doing all right ? What can I learn ? Can the land carry the animals ? M. said : if you have livestock, you will sometimes have deadstock. Truth be told, keeping animals mean having a lot to do with death and excrements.

We named—Coconut—and buried—under a sweet chestnut tree—the little thing that did not have the strength to live. We will plant a oak tree for its departed mother.

Seven more babies came into the world, two males (to eat) and five females. The new mothers have overwintered on hay, daily-cut briars, dried nettles, garlic. There was a time when I felt that I had to feed my goats organic concentrates—with ingredients from afar—regularly, but have come to wonder if this is not actually junk-food to a degree : so I am now giving my ruminants a lot of locally grown food to ruminate on, roughage to keep them warm, green and dried plants to keep them busy chewing the cud.

This time here is circular, am also thinking of the winter that will come round : I am harvesting nettles—the tips for us now to gently fry in butter and serve with breakfast scrambled eggs, the tips to dry now for nettle tea in the future—the bulk to dry for nourishing winter fodder for my ladies.

All surviving babies are jumping around, running together, sleeping on top of each other, head-butting their mother’s udders to get the milk to flow. All mothers are pretty much eating round the clock to keep up with milk-making. I did that too for my own babies in my time, I empathise and do the best I can to make their lives as easy as can be.

I have started making a mental list of what I will not manage and need to forgivingly put off till another year, but the field that did not get fenced last year as I ran out of steam is on my to-do list now, two weeks to go before they need to be moved there in their rotation. I think I am growing more accepting of the limitations of my small frame and the slowness of my progress with this patch of land on my own. Slow progress but good happy work, will I ever yield an income from this, only time will tell. In the mean time it keeps me sane, and gives my young people and I plenty to chew on too.

Much more light, very nice.

9 April 2015

some grilled sprats Marinated (lemon zest and juice, olive oil, cayenne pepper from the Light & Easy HF-W’s River Cottage cookbook) grilled sprats. no more jam ? Caught! Have been working on a protective cushioning layer of fat during the colder days. “Dieu m’a donné des mains pour consoler mon cœur…(God gave me hands to soothe my heart)” Vianney vegetablesRoast cauliflower and lightly (deliciously earthy and sweet) pan fried (with ghee, olive oil or coconut oil) grated beetroot. Very busy time out around the soil, bare-root trees and bushes planted, clearing, cutting, feeding, pruning, planning, hitting the Spring running… but I don’t really want to run, I actually want to be moving slowly so to stop me in my tracks I get into the grips of a very good book like, most recently, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. I find myself sitting down, forgotten by some of the things clamouring for my attention, I cry a little, travel far, get excited and inspired to be even more alive. The goats will soon wave good bye to their daily profusion of hay and briars in their little winter patch and be brought to forage in their succession of fields ; just waiting for a tiny more green growth to show. Kids will be born soon and I will have to reinvent some gestures I may not actually have forgotten.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 238 other followers

%d bloggers like this: