Sunday, 18 February 2018

Glad tidings....Something nice to look forwards to ..

Its been a long, wet, and somewhat drear winter.

Made just a little more bearable,  by having some decent food about the place.

And if you've had half an eye on current affairs, it would be hard not to despair at the goings on of the world, and the general feeling that we are backsliding towards worse times  rather than progressing towards better ones.

Thankfully,  I'm not here to detail any more of those rather depressing events.

 Moreover, any observer of human progress, would soon identify that our perceived gains and losses are not something we can so easily  tally up,  as if numbers on a balance sheet.

Sometimes, I do almost feel  that practising and teaching yoga are rather esoteric activities.  Removed from the real world, not doing much actual good, just a bit self indulgent, and otherworldly.

But if you go back to the original root of Yoga, and its philosophy, it is not, despite the current projected internet image, all about toned young lovelies, making beautiful shapes in their tight leggings.

Nor is it,  merely a physical workout that enables one to become fitter, stronger, and more flexible.

 - Although it does undoubtedly help with those things...

 The first principles of the eight limbs of Yoga - in its ancient Sanskrit rooted form are thus..

- Yama  - or non violence, avoiding, where possible, bad deeds in all their forms towards the outside world.

Whether in word or action.

Thats not about moralising, or judging others for their life choices,  but developing your own personal code of ethics that sit right, and align with your own values.

and - Niyama which could broadly be described as non violence towards oneself, or exercising self- care. Doing what's right for you, within the above ethical framework.
So perhaps avoiding over eating, or overworking, making sure you we get enough rest, and sufficient exercise... And looking after ourselves and nourishing our spirits in ways,  which we feel fulfilling.

The second two Asana and Pranayama do aid us with the above, in addition to feeding into what follows.

So Asana is predominantly the physical conditioning of the body through those shapes, and stretches, that we perform sequentially with our corporeal body.

Yoga, doesn't recognise that separate  mind body duality, such as has been prevelant in the west throughout the last few centuries,
It suggests, and makes a reality, that both have to be in good order, for the whole to function well.

And that both need to be well integrated for a healthy, balanced, life well lived.

And then we have Pranayama - structured. observed, and controlled breathing exercises, which again allow us to experience the reality of the mind,  body and breath being united, and joined as a whole..

All of this is experiential, it has to be done to be felt.
You could read hundreds of books about the theory of yoga, but without the practice, it is all fairly meaningless.

So I needed to remind myself of all this, whilst I go about promoting something as seemingly indulgent, and 'non - essential'  as the weekend yoga retreat that I am offering this Spring

Yes it will be lovely, the venue is fabulous, and the system of yoga teaching is recognised world wide as one of the most well thought out, and rigorous methods - accessible to everyone, but also safely progressive to a high level ...

(I'm somewhere in that mass headstand shot on the front page, from our annual convention a couple of years back)

Everybody gets to work (yes - sometimes quite hard) and make advancements at their own pace, but safely within their own abilities.
Everyone should go home feeling like they've gained something-
  (other than just a few pounds from all the yummy food)

And of course the food has to be important, to feel fully nutured, and nourished.

We are very literally made of what we eat..

Luckily your teacher also happens to run a small organically principled vegetable farm,  just down the road - in fact, excitingly it is visible from the yurt campsite.

Plus we have a couple of very talented local cooks on hand,  who will be transforming all this fresh produce, and other locallly sourced ingredients into delicious meals throughout the weekend.

Indeed,  I have a slight suspicion, that some of last years attendees almost saw the whole weekend as a foodie event - with a bit of stretching in between to make room for the next delicious meal...

Anyhow, there won't be a questionare as to motivations for attending.

But if people do go home,  feeling good about themselves, in their bodies, and in better spirits too, then that has to be a job well done.

Their well-being will positively enhance their interactions with the world, and affect all the things that they do.

Like the ripples spreading out from a pebble falling in a pond..

  The four further principals of yoga,  do fall within the more esoteric, and personal field.
I'm not about the business of interfering in other peoples belief systems  or practices. And nor does the Iyengar system of teaching generally seek so to do ...

Theyre more about personal life goals and inner journeying,  which is certainly outside the remit of my teaching scope..

But if you are interested they are detailed more here

 Below is a more general overview of what you could expect from the weekend that we are offering :

Following on from the success, and all round enjoyment of the retreat that we held here last September.

I am pleased, and excited, to be able to offer a Spring Iyengar Yoga Retreat for 2018.

From 4pm on Friday 27th, up to and including, the evening of Sunday 29th April.

Come and fully immerse yourself, in a programme of in depth Asana and Pranayama.

At hunger hill Retreat Space, and Yurt campsite. 

This superb, rurally situated studio, is purpose built, and fully equipped for yoga practice.

In case you were worried that this was only suitable for women - there's one chap booked in already.

Arrive and be wonderfully well fed, and nourished, from the very beginning.

Our accomodation is right alongside open heath land, for walks from the door, and just a short drive, or bike ride to local beaches.

Heathland walking , with far reaching views , straight from the campsite.

Weston Mouth, not too far away, on East Devons Jurassic coast.

We will be providing a fully catered event, featuring gloriously fresh, local produce, from Fresh and Green Vegetables.

Nobody goes home empty stomached... Here  a good helping of the famous Fresh and Green salad. Served with the freshest eggs from our flock of free range hens. 

Accommodation is in cosy, beautifully furnished, wood fire heated yurts, at the campsite alongside the studio.

This weekend will be suitable for anyone with some yoga experience. 

And is especially designed for those who wish to deepen their understanding and practice of Iyengar Yoga, in a friendly, and supportive atmosphere.

Expect to be challenged, but not forced to go beyond safe limits.  Alternative ways of working, supports and adaptations are given where the full pose is not yet achievable.

Always remembering that yoga is supposed to be good for you, not that you are supposed to be good at it ..

Your teacher has completed five years of teacher training, has been running regular local classes for over 18 years, and is certificated to junior intermediate level 3 under the Iyengar system.

OK , maybe East Devon scenery doesnt have quite the same drama as this, but we're still aiming high in Iyengar Yoga, with our bodily extension and alignment. 

We aim that you leave feeling totally relaxed, but also rejuvenated, well fed, and inspired to integrate more beneficial yoga into your daily life.

There will be plenty of time, between the three daily classes, to explore the local countryside and coast, or you can just relax, and enjoy the fabulous surroundings …

There are few places more enchanting that the Devon countryside in Springtime, so come and enjoy a weekend of welcoming, and healthful indulgence.

It might be dry and warm enough to practice outside, but we are fully prepared to deal with April showers too...

£260 Price includes all classes, from Friday evening onwards, delicious, locally sourced vegetarian food,
 and three nights accommodation in fully furnished yurts that sleep up to four people.

Class size is limited to twelve people, so that individual attention can be given at all times.

For further details, and to reserve a place, please contact me via email on

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Land Workers Alliance Crowdfunding Appeal.

So, this isn't the sort of thing that i would normally use my personal blog space for.

 If you've landed here from 'Planet Normal' then please feel free to ignore all the other unrelated witterings to be found ...

Perhaps they are not all suitable for general consumption, and do not necessarily represent me with my 'Sensible, Upstanding, Member of the Ecological Farming Community' hat on.

However ,with that particular, tidier, and more serious hat on, i'd like to alert you to the final week of our crowdfunding campaign.

This is a crowdfunder by, The Land Workers Alliance of which I am a core group member ...

They do lots of brilliant things for food producers and consumers in the UK...

 Update - Excellent news...

We made our target and then some on this,

Finally - food and farming and its wider impact on us all, both personally and globally is moving up the agenda.

We still have a lot of work to do.
There are many far stronger forces who would quite cheerfully see business as usual, and then some.

Cheap* ( shelf price) low quality calories are an 'easy sell' to time, and cash poor people who have so many other pressing demands  - such as ridiculously inflated housing costs, having to work all hours to make ends meet so that the idea of cooking proper food at the end of the day seems like too mmuch.

Our aim is to make the production, and availabilty of good quality, foods within reach of everyone - not just the favoured few who can afford to be choosy.

The subject is vast and complex, which is why it seems such an overwhelming task.

But we need to do something.

Our current food production, processing, distribution and consumption habits are harmful, to ecology, society, and human health.

This is the kind of pressure we are up against from the big hitters..

Its going to be an uphill struggle, getting anything like a 'right to good food' ethos onto the current political agenda.

But the success of the crowdfunder has shown that there is an appetite for change.

Thankyou :)

We, as a group, have a bit of an 'in' at Westminster, right now, to put across our more progressive and ecological ideas around agriculture, equitable land use, and the production of good food for everyone in the UK. 

Particularly when seen, in the light of us exiting the protections of the European Union -

 I make no secret of my dismay, at this move but we are trying, at least, to do our best to make some good come of this retrograde move... ..

defra ( The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs*) are interested in some of our ideas around promoting a food system, that is better for everyone, consumers, producers, and the environment too.

However, we do need some funds to reprint our carefully crafted reports, policy documents, and other literature. 

 To re- edit our film to make it short enough for MPs to watch (!) - the longer version of which I'm planning to screen in Sidmouth, Devon in March .

 And to get ourselves to meetings various, in the big smoke, so that the voice of the agroecological farmer gets heard in the post brexit policy decision making.

Any monies gifted would be truly appreciated.

 I'm really hoping this might reach a few more sympathetic to the cause bods, who could be willing to help.

Feel free to share it about, and thank you very much in advance for any donations you can make.

* and because tradition dictates that there should be at least one lame joke somewhere ....

The Department for the environment, Food , and Rural Affairs ...How come its only the country folk that get their supposed infidelities so scrutinised ?

Doesn't seem fair some how - 'The Archers' (tm) is bad, (and inaccurate) enough, without having a whole government department dedicated to nosing in our private lives ... 

Monday, 1 January 2018

Pyrenean Prologue

Perspective ..

That's only one, of many many reasons that we might cite, for wandering off to the hills for a stomp about.

Being made to feel very small, and insignificant, being shown just how truly tiny we totally are..

Whilst, sharpening our awareness of how very dependent we are on the essentials of food, water, shelter, half decent clothing, and an ability to find the way.

Of course,  its a holiday for us pampered westerners, choosing the luxury of  privation maybe?

 Fully knowing, that given a day or so,  we can bail out, and make use of a handy piece of plastic to have most of our whims met, if present conditions don't suit ...

And then,  there's the fabulous views, astonishing near natural landscapes, different places and cultures, food and all the rest...

But before you go, you must provision thoughly, and within reason the lighter the better.

Essential 'things and stuff'

So before we head off , equipment must be found and fettled. Appropriate for summer mountains clothing selected, then deselected again by at least half.

Good enough food stores laid in. Because bodies which are used to having what might be considered optimum nutrition - i.e. grown right there, outside the door, fresh picked and consumed within hours, or even minutes sometimes ; those same  bodies get a trifle narked when offered too much, in the way of substandard fare.

Anyhow, perhaps more of the bits and pieces later, that's not what this prologue is about - already we're getting bogged down in the details.

This is about something more basic than finding food, clothes, suitable shelter, adequate mapping, finding passports, printing train tickets

Something that trumps all of those ...?

And a salutory warning - if you'd like to sashay off, on holiday, in a relaxed style.

Don't have kids, who are off a wandering at the same time!

Earlier in the spring; second born son had taken it upon himself to go excurse about in the Scandilands...

Train, ferry, train, bus, then stay at a few places rural and rustique to work his passage as a farm and building site hand, for some weeks.

And then what?

Well seeing as its there, why not spend a few weeks hitch-hiking, with his tentlet to the most northerly part of Europe for the album cover photo shoot of the band that, who knows?
Might even exist one day.

Musical talent notwithstanding ..

Brilliant - all very much 'Approved of by basecamp' activities...  Get out, and do things, see places, meet people .

Before he left, we had a good few discussions, around how there would, very likely be hours, or even days at a time, when he would get bored, tired, stuck somewhere unappealing, and wonder why on earth he was even undertaking this enterprise at all.

It's the nature of unscheduled travelling, or maybe all sorts of travelling?

I even suggested that there was a small statistical risk that he might not make it back at all.

That had to be countenanced, as a tiny possibility, but not be used as a reason not to go ..

X number of youngsters, sally forth a-journeying every year from their safe little homes.  And inevitably not all of them make it back in one piece.

 It was hardly that he was going anywhere dangerous really, but stuff can happen anywhere.

The suggestion that you could get run over by a bus, on the road outside your house, doesn't really hold much water in our locale.

You'd more likely die from hypothermia, or starvation, lying in wait for an omnibus to do the dirty on you round these parts...

More reliable for getting about, than public transport ..

So there we were five days before our own off.

Quarter Master Designate had, as per, been doing most of the proposed trip kit riffling.

Yours truly had been generally scudding round the farm, last minute seed sowing, tractorising, planting, hoeing, making lists of lists.

In order to leave everything in the extraordinarily competent care of three fabulous femme farmsitters
for eighteen or so days...  Oh what joy, luck, and relief to have such help on hand.

 If I felt anymore grateful of it, I would probably burst, into little bits of thankfulness.

Never any shortage of jobs - to add to the to do list ... Here picking sugar snap peas.

So, all things going along just fine.

Then ; a terse ; and not very expansive message on one platform or another from second born; which was fine; many days, could go by quite merrily without any signs of life.

And this, is the point at which us tedious oldsters will kick in with " Of course when we went off travelling as youngsters, we might not contact the homestead for weeks, on end...Our parents would have no clue as to where we were, or what we were up to (thankfully?)"

 But they also knew that a call home, from a far flung pay phone might cost the equivalent of a weeks food on the road, so it wasn't going to happen very often, if at all, perhaps they'd appreciate an occasional postcard?

And of course, previous to that?
Folks might go abroad by boat, or mule, or on foot, and a letter home might take months, or even years to arrive, if at all...

 Its all about our parameters of what is currently normal.}

So back to this little electronic missive.

Which constituted something along the lines of-

" Hi i'm alright really, I'm just a bit cold, and hungry, and slightly lost - I'm near a fjord somewhere, my phones nearly dead, but don't worry I'll find a library tomorrow and charge it up, and get back to you in a day or so "

By this time he'd visited the Lofoten Islands on the trip back down the west coast, but had, with that lofty air of the newly well traveled, declared them a bit too touristy and swiftly moved on.

But he could have been anywhere South of there, North of Oslo.

OK fine , not normally a panicky parent, he'll be fine.

Give it a couple of days ..

Radio silence.


Radio silence.

Still nothing.

A sleepless night, the day before we're supposed to leave - Oh great..

4am worst case scenarios, really are the worst

The morning of our proposed departure brings...?

Uh huh?

No - nada.

Still; there's seventy or so, veg boxes to be packed on that day.

To be done before catching an early evening train to London, in order that the Friday morn would see us at St Pancras international to get southbound to the mountains.

Midday passes, still nothing.

Okayyyy ..

He's the one on the left - curiously neither of them seem to have inherited their mothers inclination for colourful clothes..

It happened that this particular packing day, all other assistants  (Excepting QMD) were of the sensibly child-free persuasion.

Offering very many, totally well meant assurances along the lines of " I'm sure he will be fine, he's probably lost his phone, forgotten what he said" etc etc.

Excepting  K' who was very quiet , unusually quiet. Knowingly being supportive in her own way, keeping counsel. Doing the silent magic, imagining her own 'trading with The Universe' as many of us tend to do in these situations.

" If everything is OK I promise I never / always will ..."

She knew that once the primeaval stomach dragging dread, surrounding the welfare of ones offspring has kicked in, there is nothing - absolutely nothing will lift that ... Well only one thing..

Of course, I affected bright and breezy, lets get this job done... In fact its most likely, that never in the history of salad grading, have mixed leaves been stared at with such intensity - you know what they say about focussing on the moment and all that other self help stuff...

It kinda helps a bit..

Anyhoos, we're bored of this now, and its abundantly clear that I wouldn't be writing this if disaster really had struck..

I could have got on the train going east, because that would have been the 'correct' direction.

To do what ? Exactly?

I don't know... Make an utter blethering fool of myself explaining to some efficiently and kindly, yet nonplussed member of the Norwegian search and rescue services, that the youngster in question had last been heard of near a fjord. - brilliant!! - Only within a mere several hundred km stretch of coastline, wearing all black, whilst habiting a tiny green tent?

Hmmn, that narrows it down a bit ...

Doesn't this horribly expose also ? How still ; it's the fear of my embarrassment, at my lack of useful information that has sprung to mind..

I am soo, hopelessly British.

But it would take a wayyy cooler Momma than I, to hop on a southbound train, not knowing the fate of the little fekker..

I can't recall now, what eventually constituted the 'signs of life' at just after One (!) in the afternoon,  (hmm  - train leaving at four).

Did he 'like' an instagram post? Or even, send a message?

Its bizarre, how once you know that they're not dead, just about all you want to do is strangle the little darlings for putting you through it.

" Oh sorry, yeah i got a bit distracted, i forgot, I'm fine, sorreee ...."

Arrrggh !!!

 Of course they know they're OK, so what's the problem?

is how shamefully behind i have got with writing up trips, one from the year before, but time, is eventually being carved out from the schedule ... Turns out doing things I enjoy, just because, is a valuable , even necessary activity - who knew?  

However, the upside to all this preparatory angst, is that no matter how well, or how badly ones own trip turns out, its done in the immediate light of 'Child is OK' - That, it turns out, is the baseline comfort requirement.

Not having precisely the right socks, shelter, gloves, food, mapping, and so on, become somewhat laughable concerns, in comparison ..

After all this isn't a polar expedition, or a machete wielding excursion into previously uncharted tracts of rainforest.

It's a walking holibob ...

 Lovely, lovely loveley.

Child is alive - Honestly don't have kids, if you don't want to go through this...

They're great, wouldn't be without them, love em to bits etc etc.

But, let's face it, the world really doesn't need any more human beans in it.

 Probably the most planet friendly thing you can do by a very long shot, is not to get into the 'breeding more first world people' game.

Trouble is, once you've got em, there is very little you wouldn't do to keep em safe.

But at the same time, they are not your possessions to direct and control.

They are themselves, doing their thing, choosing and taking their own risks, as we must take ours.

  If we are to grow, thrive, and learn ..

All we can hope is that we've instilled into them some modicum of common sense, and the knowledge that they are valued, their lives, like everyone elses' are inordinately precious.

 But at the same time, cannot be spent, by not being lived, cannot be preserved by staying always in the comfortable places.

Because the truly astonishing places, the most lived experiences are often to be found just beyond that fearful place, that sometimes we'd rather not visit.

Yup, just there...

Sunday, 17 December 2017

All the big things; are quite clearly, made up of lots of little things ..

Someone wrote; some time back; that the purpose of writing, for them,was to explain themselves, to themselves.

That was the most efficacious method, as far as they were concerned, of finding out what, and how, they actually thought.

And I think there is a lot in that, because if you are at all self conscious, or of a nervous disposition,  then being interrogated by others, who are actually there, can sometimes feel a bit threatening, or intimidating. Its not always simple, trying to explain yourself.

Not to mention the old 'people pleasing' instinct, that can be activated ...

"What does this person want to hear? Maybe I should say something approximating that?"

I know its very naughty doing that second guessing ; and it doesn't always make for total truth telling, but then what can?  How do we catch hold of that nebulous, amorphous, ever changing thing, that we would sometimes wish had a concrete form?

If you truly want to know what i really think about anything ; you might be stood there listening for some time.

Because I've done a lot of wandering about, on most subjects;  I'm not claiming to be very knowledgeable about lots of things ; more that there has been 'Much Pondering in the Shires' and constant updating, as new, information is incoming.

Perhaps, this is a consequence of spending many hours engaged in solitary manual labour; which once the task has been grasped; doesn't require too much cognitive effort; so there's lots, and lots of time for contemplation.

Brick distribution, and squash planting, rewarding but not overly taxing to the brain.

Things turned, and marinated, and revisited, and walked round, espied from the back view - often the most interesting angle - not always the presented most obvious 'face'.

Some might call it overthinking ; and that may well be so. But preferable perhaps; on the whole; to 'underthinking' ? Which can, ultimately, lead to reactionary ways of being.

And the reason behind this particular monstrosity of a preamble, is .....?

  A little while back, the weekend saw us heading East for a change.

Lots of interesting, and informative, and sociable agroecological farmer and 'any other' land based business was done at our annual  Landworkers AGM.

And marvellous food, and company was had by all too.

In truth ? A picture from another occasion, our farmworking womens weekend, held here, in September, but similar scenes of peasants well fed.

Once upon a time I was uneasy about mixing up the yoga teaching; and the farming.

Or rather, uncertain about letting people know that I pursued both of those arts, and crafts as a means of making a living.

As if I was somehow worried about being seen as a Jill-of-all-trades , maybe mistress of none?

Which resulted, in more than a couple of amusing discussions on the phone, whereby someone would have found my number, and be making the necessary enquiries about receiving either a veg bag, or attending yoga classes.

 Only for the realisation to slowly dawn upon them, that they were talking to the self same Ruth, who had been teaching them yoga, or supplying them with veg for years.

Thankfully, I'm over that particular worry now.

 For certain, and most definitely, being a specialist in one specific field, is a great, and vital thing to be.

It's just that I'm not particularly well suited to that way of being. 

The overview of the interconnectedness, and synergy, of all the little things, that make up the bigger things, is what does it for me.

Its not particularly difficult, to see the analogies, between a complex food web, ecological systems, and all the people involved, on a small food producing farm. And ultimately how that feeds into nourishing the local community.

And the interconnectivity, of all the parts, and placements of the body, and mind-breath connection that contributes to the greater health of the whole, when we practice Yoga.

To be honest, it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming, as if flying over a landscape, and trying to take in the whole picture, all at once.

 But not only seeing the mappable 2D surface of the earth, or body, but penetrating the layers, of stuff, moving downwards, and also upwards into the overlying atmosphere, or breath.

It's a lot of connectivity to think about, all at once, or at least to keep in mind ; but that is really our job, to do, both as agroecological farmers. And also as Yoga teachers...


3D Chess, anyone?

No, me neither, thanks - way too complicated... That way a very hurty brain lies ..

And can even lead to overwhelm.

So do try to focus ; on one thing at a time ; but always with a mind ; as to how that element fits into ; and works in the bigger picture.

What brought this particular train of thought to the surface was the direct and immediate experience of this phenomena at our weekend event in rural Suffolk.

I'd offered to run an hours morning yoga session, for the landworkers assembled.

But I really had thought, what with it being scheduled earlyish, and there having been a bit of a bawdy knees up affair the previous evening, that it might be a three sheep and a shephardess sort of an affair.

As it turned out, at least thirty of them turned out, to be maneuvered back into shape...
We focused on doing things for our backs.

However, yoga nearly always does lots of good things for your back, so it wasn't a difficult class to design.
There was a modicum of groaning, and huffing and puffing.
Maybe the previous evenings entertainments had some part to play in this?

But best of all people asked lots of questions - perhaps because the assemblage were comprised of folks who like to know what they're doing, and why, and how is this going to be effective?

What is best practice, to get best results?

There's nothing like a curious, and receptive audience to, make you believe that getting up at 7am on a non work day, is worthwhile. 

Then, within an hour of finishing, I was back on again.

Over exposure, or what?

Doing a turn this time, entitled ...

 "Appropriate tooling up, and technology for a smaller scaled vegetable farm" 

 Or somesuch.

Rewards of the earlier brick and squash labours... Thankfully, nowadays there's a lot more help to hand than back in the beginning. another recognition that trying to do so much, all by oneself cannot be sustained for ever.
Why not share the fun? Bonnets optional - except in this case ...

A rather last minute assemblage of pictures of kit from around the 'stead.
Thankfully I have a few on file these days...

Rather predictably the trusty tractor, and her attachments got a starring role..

I mean; who wouldn't want to look at lovely pictures of Massey disc harrows, such as this' with their relatively gentle but effective lift and slice action.... Akin to mini-ploughing, for green manure incorporation, and ground preparation, but without the undesirable soil inverting effect.

We also looked at the smaller, more homespun, and adapted bits and pieces that save a lot of time and labour.

Five burner, trolley gas powered flame weeder. get the timing right, and it will wilt seedling weeds, just prior to the direct sown crops emerging.

Hand tools, people power, and the judicious use of sheet materials, for suppressing weeds... Some folk get a bit sniffy about using black plastic, but the sturdy variety, well cared for, will last for years, and could legitimately be described as a very  broad, but shallow, tool in its own right. 

Then getting down to the really properly tiny stuff, such as well honed harvesting knives.

Some growing essentials whatever your scale - a knife that will take, and keep, an edge, a decent whetstone, and a proper big mug of tea. 

And finally back to zone 00 (thats you folks) to remember that our bodies and minds are the primary tools for the job, so we must give them due care, and maintenance too.

i.e. no point having lots of great gear, but no physical capability, or scant motivation to use them.

So, now of course, I have to practice what I teach.. and preach ... Mmmn ?

This is a problem with being an organic vegetable growing, yoga teacher.

In some folks minds; us wholesome sorts must never be ill, or bad tempered, or less than continuously virtuous, or have any mental health issues, or even contemplate having dark thoughts ; about anyone, or anything...

Hmmn, well, if it is that way for some people, then lucky them (maybe?)

 But could it also be; that some of us are drawn to these integrated ways of being; or operating ; not because we feel wholesome ; but in an attempt to become more so?

Always; gloriously flawed, works in progress.

 I reckon, if you've started from a point of nearly whole already; undamaged goods so to speak; then it must be much harder to comprehend the travails of those ; who most definitely are not...

(And you might even annoy everyone else; with your expectations that they constantly strive for perfection too :-)

We need to investigate ... And to cherish, whatever helps us to see the uneven, and often unlovely destiny of human beings in the world, with humour and delight. Rather than with absolutist rage for an impossible sort of perfection ...

More tools and equipment - this time for doing the right thing, and giving others the necessary, and welcome break from ones busy fingered company...

Turns out (thankfully) that none of us is indispensible ; or we certainly shouldn't be businesswise at least.

Bike on a ferry, no doubt to somewhere glorious.



Sunday, 26 November 2017

Thats another fine mess we've got ourselves into ...

What mess? 

Actual real people working in the countryside, a rareish site nowadays. We have a local marine base nearby, and the scary Chinook (?) helicopters often seem to divert their flight path to take in this holding ... Someone told me, that they do that because it's good practice for locking onto targets for battle scene scenarios... I don't know how much real truth there is in this macabre motivation, they're most likely just after an eyeful of the hot totty that works here, but if true, i'm not at all happy with aiding and abetting the military machine .

The rather large mess we've made of our system of producing and consuming food.

We can't continue doing it the way we're doing it. its just not sustainable.
But what can we do about it?

I've been involved in many discussions over the last few years, both in real life, and online, regarding how we move from our present, planet trashing, methods of agriculture towards a system that regenerates, whilst feeding our population (not just the lucky few) in a wholesome, satisfying way.

This isn't about self denial, or taking the pleasure out of food. 
On the contrary, good food should be at the centre of our civilisation, its what binds us all. 

The cultural differences in how we produce, cook, and eat food are fascinating in themselves.

But we all eat, (three times a day, if we're lucky) so the cumulative effects are massive, and current methods of purely profit driven modern agriculture are not sustainable in any way, not to the planet, nor to society.

The case against industrial agrichemical aggro'culture' and the harms that it causes have been made countless times over. 

The evidence of degredation in terms of soil loss, climate change, ecosystems breakdown, human health, and destruction of food cultures, is well documented.

But we seem unable to acknowledge this, or prepared to do anything about it.

I guess farming, and food production for most of us, is just seen as something that goes on 'over there' which results in us having this food 'over here' on our plates, or on the supermarket shelves.
Government departments, and officials, are by their very nature, bound up in city and office life. 

And if they think about farming and the countryside at all, they perhaps view it as a nice green, and fluffy thing happening somewhere else, its somewhere to go and recreate in at the weekend .... Hmmn

But we can't continue in this way. 

For example...

Between 2010 and 2015 there has been a 9% decline in birds living and breeding on the UK's farmland.

I've compiled just a few extracts from various online discussions around this subject... 

Firstly in direct response to the above....

All produced here, and in no way a chore to consume.
On birds, or rather their decline..

And lo, it did come to pass...
All the eco-mageddon that us tedious hairshirted greenies have been predicting for decades.
Gives absolutely no satisfaction in being right though.
We could maybe turn this round, if we stop dithering and waiting for 'further evidence' of the harm done...
Put the need for decent nutritious food for everyone at the heart of government policy making. Instead of worrying about export markets.
Shorten supply chains, so that good quality food, grown in a sustainable way, need be no more expensive to the consumer than at present, if a fair share of that money goes back to the farmer or grower, instead of the multiples, so that the supposed custodians of the countryside can be just that.

Supermarkets mainly supply cheap agri-industrially produced, over-processed calories, great for their profits, pretty much pants for public health, and ecology.
I was at a conference just lately where some high up defra officials were suggesting that we really need to combine our efforts around farming. ecology, and rural regeneration to get ourselves out of the mess we've made.
Well no sh*t guys...
 Alternative methods of farming folk have been saying the same, since forever, and been derided as 'starry eyed dreamers' unrealistic, and standing in the way of progress.
Progress it turns out is a race to the bottom in terms of poor food quality, soil degredation, ecosystems breakdown, and an ageing and dispirited farming population.  With very little opportunity for new entrants who might like to help turn things around, but whom have almost zero opportunity so to do...
There are plenty of people out here with ideas and energy to make things better. But this will require the behemoth of industrial agriculture to be dismantled.
 To allow a return of mixed, integrated farming systems that give proper weight to ecology, and social goods, and are not all about profit for the few.

This little farmlet does make a modest living, and is very productive for the acreage, whilst being stuffed full of bugs n birds.
 { in response to someone suggesting that maybe we need more regulation , rather than bribes, or subsidies for farmers}
 A lot of farmers are not even covering the cost of production.
Agri - environment schemes tend to benefit the larger landowner with the time and wherewithawl to implement them, and to do the necessary form filling, and hoop jumping.
We have done lots of tree planting, and other ecologically beneficial things here, but most of it is costly in time, and finances to us.
It does mean there are a lot of bugs and birds hereabouts, but bugs n birds, don't pay bills...
We do it mostly cos it seems like the right thing to do. But we have recieved zero pounds support for our efforts.
Holdings under 5ha get no financial support whatsoever.
There is presently no upper limit on area payments. So if you own a lot of land you get a lot of money, in return for ?

 Yes you guessed it, you get paid for the privilege of being rich enough to own it... No wonder the price of land has skyrocketed in the last ten years.
It's a great investment, if you have spare money to spend.
Maybe payments need to be based on supporting productive farmers producing wholesome food, in a way that doesn't trash ecosystems, and that enhances the fabric of rural life.
How we achieve this is complicated, but it could be done.
One of the major problems is that this will disrupt the business as usual system of land ownership and control.
Who has the most power to change things?
The very same people who are quite happy to see business as usual continue ...

{ In response to an understandably, weary sounding dairy farmer, who felt he was being attacked for not doing his bit for wildlife, whilst feeling totally underappreciated for his food production labours,} 

 .... I was sticking up for you.
I am well aware of the woeful situation in the dairy industry, and dairy farmers being nailed to the floor in terms of milk price, by contracts such that Arla or the big multiples operate.

As someone from Farmers for Action was saying only the other day, you guys need to work together, to stop yourselves being shafted. And get the public onside too.
The public really needs to care about how their food is being produced, and by whom, and not to just hope that everything is OK; it really isn't
There's way too much power in too few hands , the bully boy multiples and big processors need regulating, and the consumer needs to be there to support the farmer, especially the small, to medium scaled independant farmer
And yes when we Brexit there will be even less regulation, allowing most likely low quality milk powder, and products onto the UK market.
The UK public claims to care about animal welfare, and the environment, but when they get to the shelf in the supermarket, this is conveniently forgotten.
Operating under WTO (World Trade Organisation) conditions, will most likely be a death knell for the home dairy industry, which in many cases is only keeping going because of EU area payments.
And under present market conditions, there's never any money left over for reinvestment in essential infrastructure.
I do know how much it costs to refurb a milking parlour
I have spent periods in my farming career milking cows for other farmers, I know how much hard work and dedication it takes, and the pride that farmers generally take in animal welfare and keeping the farm in as good a state as is possible, whilst still having to pay the same ol drear bills that everyone else does.
Support should be given to productive farmers. (Which isn't always the landowner - but they usually get the dosh) Farmers should be paid fairly for their quality produce - cut out or at least massively regulate the profiteering middle man.
The Groceries Code Adjudicator should actually have some teeth to ensure this.
And a simplified form of payments made to encourage practices beneficial to wildlife.
Without it requiring a full time paid farm staff member to oversee.

Followed by this
When I was at agricultural college thirty years ago we were fed such gems as
"Soil is just the substrate in which you stand plant roots, whilst you feed them with chemicals"
"The farm is just a factory floor for production like any other industrial unit."
"FYM ( farm yard manure) has very little plant feeding capacity compared with this bagged nitrogen, and now lets do the lab tests to prove it."
{Absolutely no mention that the atmosphere is full of Nitrogen ( for free!) and that if you use that FYM and other amendments wisely the soil and its life will feed the plants just fine.}
This and many other exciting modern methods, which bypass natural systems were promoted , and still are , only now its biotech, and GM - which is not the exact and controlled science that its proponents would like to suggest - i've spoken to ex- GM scientists who have some terrifying 'cock up' stories to tell..
Trying to farm in a ecosystem, and bank balance friendly way is extremely difficult in todays climate. Even if you have a good solid direct sales customer base, thirty years of hands on experience, and lots of willing help.
Not all of us can supplement our income through 'doing the right thing' for a short while, then writing nice books about it, although i did enjoy John Lewis Stempels offering, [ someone mentioned {The Running Hare, which I read sometime last year... as it wasn't the usual rural fantasy, harking back to the never really existed good old days nonsense.
But he did inherit his farm so presumably he has no mortgage to pay on it?
Don't blame the farmers, so much, they've been shoved about, being told what to do by various bodies, 'we know better than you' experts and commercially interested agri-business salespeople.
They are operating in a market that has commodified food, and like anyone else they need to make a living, and don't wish to be derided as backward thinking, alternative crackpots.
Now of course they're shoved about by supermarkets, who dictate prices. Most consumers have no real idea of the larger environmental and social costs of the cheap convenient food theyre buying.
Until more people take a real interest, buy accordingly, and tell government that they give a sh*t about these things, then nothing will likely change.

Someone asked what if anything was being done to address the shortfall in British grown fresh produce.
I directed them to some of the solutions being offered here.

Smaller scale regenerative agriculture, has often been derided as 'playing at farming', or irrelevant, or uneconomic, or unproductive, especially in our get bigger or get out system of 'aggro'culture.
Well it isn't actually so in reality.
Natural systems self regulate and keep themselves. within sustainable and workable bounds, if they are over exploited, or over worked then the system collapses. Its basic physics and biology, when you think about it.
And so it is, with the way agriculture needs to re-culture itself.
Most people instinctively know this, and are drawn towards more diverse, interconnected ways of working, that doesn't exclude the natural world from having its fair share of space and resources..
Yes these ways of working can be more complicated, and require more skilled, people to operate them.
But isn't fulfilling, meaningful, useful work what many people crave?
Aren't we aiming to create more jobs?
Not to say it isn't hard graft sometimes, but if the workload can be shared, and more of that profit margin can go back to the farmer or grower, then it doesn't have to mean much higher prices to the consumer.
Produce from this farm is sold direct to the customer, they get a good deal and get very fresh veg. The business makes a modest living and employs local people too.
Plus, i spend absolutely zero on gym fees :)

Growing and farming on a more human scale , means that people from non traditional farming backgrounds are more likely to want to get to get involved. Voluntary work, and training experiences, can turn into job opportunities. and encourage new entrants to consider farming and growing as a valuable, and valid career option..  

Arising from a question as to whether organic food production can reasonably be expected to feed our population 

In the long run organic growing is more productive, in all senses of the word, if done properly.

But it is generally more labour, and skill intensive,
Its about using methodologies that build soil in the long term.
People want cheap food,

The supermarkets with their overarching power, and market control, mean that producers are running at very slim margins. With very little wiggle room left for such niceities as wildlife conservation, or worrying about rural jobs.
Those 'bogoff' offers are funded in the main, by the producer not the supermarket for instance.
On average only 8% of retail price goes to the primary producer.
Most farmers are relying on area payments (CAP money) to continue farming, as the cost of production is just about met by farm gate prices.
Farmers have been instructed ( by banks, and society in general ) to run their business like any other - short term profits, or at least bills paid ( if they're lucky)
they have not been encouraged to farm for the future health of the environment or soil health.
This situation will continue so long as food is seen as just another commodity, rather a central underpinning element of human health, society.
Current agricultural practices have a massively debilitating effect on the environment, and human health.
Until this is recognised and we are collectively willing to act (and buy) accordingly this will never change.
The trouble is government ministers, and officials are by their nature urban creatures.
Farmers, and rural folk in general are often seen as somewhat backwards, rustic props to their bucolic fantasies about the countryside, and what its for..

Taken a couple of years back, but you get the idea... Compact, purposeful, productive, and profitable.

Feeding the local community with wholesome food that it wants and needs. Making room for wildlife and people,  and generating a livable income ... What is not to like?  So why is there not more of this kind of thing going on?

i have paraphrased the interjections from various interlocutors, and even edited some of my own responses so as to avoid so much repetition 
{and corrected any spelling and grammar mis-usages that makes me unhappy. :-) 

There's lots more, to be compiled and edited at a future date, the debate is unfolding, but the public need to get involved, and show that they care about this stuf ... On top of having to care about everything else that needs attention.

But food, and how it's produced is a pivotal issue, we notice pretty quickly, when enough of the decent stuff isn't there. 
Lets not find ourselves in that situation.