In this blog me and Márk Mészaros have shared our experiences from our voluntary work on smallholdings and farms across Europe during 2015-16.
We wrote this blog to give our friends and family a chance to follow our journey as well as possibly inspire others who are interested in self-sufficiency and sustainable organic growing systems.
And do get in contact with me or Márk if you have any questions of comments!
There seems to be a chorography to follow. One step pre-destined to be taken before the next one. The dance to become an adult. Practiced and performed to perfection. Who is the chorographer?
Anyhow, I rather choreograph my own dance towards adulthood. After all that is my profession.
Some frames of reference and then improvisation, just how I like it.
Me and Mark just changed the rhythm of our dance. In one single day we went from cancelling our previous plan (another year wwoofing in Skåne) to looking for houses to buy here in Småland.
This is exciting and sparks my creativity in a whole new way. There is so much to find out and so much to be done.
Score. (Never follow the score, improvise)
Sense what we need
Look for a house
Find a house
Sense what this house needs
Find a way to sustain financially, re-evaluate
Move and meditate
Dig and dig
Plant and sow
Help things grow
Watch things grow
Circle energy, inside and outside
Move in circles
Eat, live, love
Love, live, eat
The amazing times at Kristianstad are over, and now it is time to get back to the nature again.
We are now close to Kalmar on a 20 hectar farm in Småland. This is the Sweden I was expecting to see…forests everywhere, a lot of rocks gathered from the ice age, and vivid forest wild life.
It feels like we came to the right place.
It is hard to put the feeling of intuition into words, and it is even harder to rationally explain that feeling.
One thing is for sure, that this feeling is there, and another thing is to listen to this feeling.
This feeling does not come on command, it needs a sense of letting go of the rational toughts, plans and programs; time and space for receiving and (self)realizing and a lot of trust.
Just like the plants who grow from the ground, taking time and space for their growth, following all the invisible workings of elements such as light, wind, nutrients and microorganisms, so at a later stage they can realize their full potential by recreating themselves in the iteration of a next generation.
And as for a succesful planting, growth and harvest we help the plants, so should we do for our Selfs.
Because it is such an irrational sensation it is not easy to listen to it, but I am sure the more I am actually listening to it, the more easy it will be to hear the call of this sensation, and listen to my most inner desires, and ultimately to myself.
Yesterday we met with a young couple who bought a piece of land in the forest, near to us, and started to live their dream there. They have no water pipes, just a well, no electric grid, only a small solar panel, their forest garden is freshly planted, and they are making the foundation to the extention of their small, old but very cozy house. They see the tremendious possibility in the land, and step over the obsicles what separates the dream from the reality, and accepting the fact that living the dream is a process, which will take time.
It is very reassuring to see young people listening to their inner call, and acting upon it, and to meet with fellow contemporaries who are walking on a similar path that what I imagine together with Marie.
Some fruit and nut trees have naturally a very interesting survival mechanism.
They give fruits in a year, but the next couple of years they hold back their fruit production, and only produce the next wave of fruits a couple of years after.
By doing so they don’t make the wild animals dependent on their constant fruit production, so when they do give fruits a lot of them will be not eaten, thus increasing the possibility for their seeds to germinate.
Of course, today’s fruit and nut tree varieties are specially selected breeds, so they will give fruit year after year…
Me and Márk have spent the past ten days in Kristianstad, in the city, or more specifically in the suburb Gamlegården. We have been rehearsing and presenting the work Walk Hands Eyes (a city) by the french artist Myriam Lefkowitz. It has been a beautiful time, reconnecting to immaterial matter. The work is minimal and wild. We are guiding one audience member for an hour-long closed eyes walk in silence, letting the surrounding weave together with their imagination. An improvised collage of impressions.
Through the process of learning the work we focused a lot on seeing and sensing. Letting the images and sensations of the world come to oneself, without going out to grab them. It has put me in a state of resting and of trusting, a kind of slow mode with time to register details and shifts in energy.
It is a very powerful and useful state. When one is not busy with taking action or manifesting oneself but only responsible for receiving. There is too little time in our society for mixing reality with fiction and imagination.
I think that to find an alternative lifestyle and break the patterns of today’s society we need to give time for a more irrational mode of being. Listening, experiencing, embodying flow and bringing our imagination into play. Letting the input of reality feed our imagination and vice versa. This way we can find new pathways, dreamful thoughts and maybe, shape a new reality. Together.
It has been a great time, to be working together with a group. Me and Márk are talking more and more about the fact that we would also like create a life on the countryside: together with other people. Either in a collective or in a collaborating village. We will for sure write more about this later.
Until then, enjoy the sun and dream life ; )
By this time I completely got used to live close to and interact with the nature day-by-day. Honestly I even miss being around animals (the four legged ones + birds) if I happen to go to a bigger village or city.
Recently I had spent 6 days in Berlin to spend time and dance with Mirjam Sögner, a past classmate from Arnhem, so I could directly experience the extremity of going from a remote smallholding into a capital city.
Suprisingly the ‘shock’ I usually experience in these situations was not present. The turbulence of the city just could not get its grip on me for the first few days. I realized that I am way more slow compared to the rhytm of the city. This might be from the fact that I got used to less (or better said, less intensive) information flooding towards me, but I also think the time spent on farms with animals and plants just simply showed me the relativity of time. I not just understood, but understood it through experiencing, that there is actually nooooooooooo reason to rush at all. The plants are also not rushing from our perspective, while from their point of view they are racing for nutritions. Yet again, I found that I find myself more comfortable and grounded if I live according to the pase of nature (or plant) time.
With that in mind, life goes on, and slowly, step-by-step life begins to unfold itself, like the first flowers from their bud. We are also forming our dream and the next steps towards living on the countryside, running our smallholding, and growing our own chemical-free food.
Cutting grass: if for some reason (aesthetic, or to help ducks find the slugs) You decide to cut the grass, do not throw it away! Cut grass makes a perfect mulch bed and gives a lot of useful nutrients to the plants You mulch them with.
Making soft goat cheese: one of the most easy cheese to make. Just make sure to have a few liters of filtered raw goatmilk. Heat up the milk until it is almost boiling, and just when it begins to boil get it off the stove. Add a small amount of vinegar (for 4 liters of milk, around 0,5-1 dl) and cold water (for 4 liters of milk around 1,5 dl), let it be for a minute of so, and slowly stir it around, until You see the whey and the curd separate. If it does not happen so fast, just be patient, or add a bit more vinegar and water. When the curd is separated, just use a siv to filter the curd and vois lá You have the soft cheese. Now just add spices to Your liking, and give the whey to the pigs, or mix it with water in 1:1 ratio and give it to the goats, or just simply drink it if You like. It has not vinegar taste at all, and nor does the cheese
Today I planted 100 leek seedlings into the vegetable bed. That is 100 more leeks than I ever planted before.
I have a feeling that me and Márk are moving closer to the edge, the marginal. Walking through a monoculture forest towards an open field, planning to stay where the fields meet the forest, where both species from the woodland and the grassland can grow. Where activities of the past, present and future can meet.
Moving from a one way life to a multidirectional one. Not changing direction but adding directions.
On the edge between city and countryside. We will build a house on the threshold between performing arts and farming. I believe it’s a fertile edge of society.
In history people used to live on the edge between the sea and land or between forest and fields. Maybe there is a point to learn from this, to translate and abstract from into the present.
There might be a value in being the link in between the periphery of one environment and the periphery of another environment. There might be a value in being the joker.
This is a joker:
Sometimes in Life it happened with me that I heard an almost unnoticeable voice which came from me.
Because it is so silent, it is hard to listen to it, and hear that voice clearly. This voice comes with a similarly subtle feeling, a kind of tingling feeling in the soul, if that makes sense.
This sensation comes once in a while, usually when I go to places, I think it wants to tell me that the place I am in at the moment is a special place and it will probably have a significance to me in the future.
I guess a good name for this feeling could be; intuition.
When Rob picked us up, I could already feel different energies than I usually felt when a host picked us up. The feeling reminded me of flow and high vibrations. What was also very different from the previous experiences was that Rob is about the same age as me, he could be one of our peer, who already lives the Life we dream of for ourselves.
And than we arrived to Glynhynod farm, where the famous Teifi cheese and the amazing Dà Mhìle spirits are made. What a treat!
The absolutely beautiful landscape of Wales opened up in front of us, and the place filled us up with optimism, energy and motivation towards our plans.
Rob has around 30 cows, who he started to milk from this year on and we were one of the firsts who could try the waleshblack gold, the raw milk from his lovely welshblack cows.
Without really noticing, we spent 12-13 hours per day helping out around the cows, feeding them, cleaning them, making their bed, walking them to the pasture, and improving the stable and its facilities. Frankly, I never really felt that I was actually working, it felt more like we continuously achieved the goals. What seemed so far away at dawn was done when we stood up from the diner table- it felt like we REALLY DID something!
Day-by-day there were visible improvement at the milking parlour and that pushed us even further the next day.
Of course there was always time to have a walk, admire the beautiful environment or to tune in to the next episode of our favourite soapopera: cow feeding time.
The more time I spent there the stronger my intuition told me that this is a special place, and that it is actually not the last time I visit the Glynhynod farm.
– Cows (unlike humans) know exactly what they need to eat when they are in the nature. It is most pleasant and revealing to watch animals graze, and observe which plants and which part of the plant they eat. Each plant has special nutrients in them, and a grassfield is like a huge buffet, where they pick the food they need and like the most.
– A cow chews the cud (food eaten once, and then thrown up again into the mouth for chewing again) between 40-80 times, but the avarage is about 55.
– Cows are very soft, cosy and warm, so they make excellent beds
Spending a few days at the Telfi farm have shown me a completely new dimension of farming; playfulness.
Rob has a personal relation to each cow and even though he is not doing the daily work in the most convenient ways (from my perspective) he still lives up to high standards and most surprising of all; with a financial ambition and success.
The secret here is playfulness, creativity and real motivation from the heart.
Being in dialogue with the weather, nature and the cows makes humans humble. It’s a relation where the will and needs of a human easily can be ignored, so we have to collaborate, give back and remember that mother nature rules.
I do believe that collaboration is key. In farming as in so many other relations. Listening to the suggestions of the weather, listening to the demands of nature, listening to the ideas of the cows, listening to the whispers of the plants. Then seeing our own input as suggestions and looking for ways where we can make use of each other’s powers, truly wanting the best for all.
Nature acts through us, if we listen. If we look at for example plants or cows as separate from us, they will surprise us and act in mysterious ways, but if we empathize with them, we see much of ourselves in them and them in us.
Same life that wants to live. Same expansion and contraction. Same love and need for sun and for water. Same minerals. Same greed. Same abundant generosity?
There is no one ultimate right way of living Life, or managing land, plants and animals. Every person makes their own choices based on their knowledge, background and circumstances.
The beauty for me and Marie is to actually go to different farms and smallholdings and see what kind of choices were made on that land we visit. No two farms are the same, just as no two people are the same. So as we see different choices made, different opinions about farming, we gather more and more points of view about the possible relationships between human and nature.
By gathering these points of views, we can build up our knowledge and our background, so we can form our own point of view.
And that point of view will be like a rich compost; the more different components are added, the more varied and nutritious the soil will be at the end of the composting process.
Or this is what we hope for, that would be nice
And now some other thoughts, about machines…
In the book “The owner built home” from Ken Kern, I came across a sentence where he wrote, that he avoids the use of rotovators, and since then I was thinking about why he did so. Here at Latchygors we have been using a rotovator to prepare the soil for the summer and planting. While I was rotovating I had some thoughts about what Ken wrote.
– quick: turning up soil takes way less time and effort, compared to digging with spades
-quite thorough: the turned up soil is broken up very well
– the soil is turned, and the ecosystem in the soil is turned as well; what was established in the previous period has to be reestablished again
– by rotovating, there is a great chance that earthworms will be injured or even killed
This might be true or not, but this is what I could think of while rotovating. And of course there is also the option to not rotovate or turn the soil at all. Before I would write about that, I think it would be better to actually try it out in practice as well, so more on that in the future 😉
Nature provides a lot of free resources that one can use to grow plants. Rainwater can be collected from the roof into a barrel, just under the roof level, and by using gravity this water can flow onto the vegetable beds in the dry season.
If You plan to plant mint into Your garden, it is a great idea to plant it into a separated container, or a barrel. Mint is extremely invasive, like couch grass, and even a small piece of its root will grow a whole plant. By separating the plant into another container, the roots will not invade the bed You prepared for Your other vegetables.
Another farm. Other farmers. Other bed. Other life. Other rules. Other reasons. Other roots. Other weeds.
This is an intense practice of letting go and letting in.
Letting go of Ceridwen, Rob and Diana. Letting go of a life we were physically, mentally and emotionally emerged into, just a week ago. Opening our senses to listen, feel and try to understand the logics of this new place; Latchygors and the motivations and needs of our new hosts; Peter and Marilyn.
Me and Márk have the goal of living a simple life, rooted in the soil, listening to and living in harmony with the landscape, connected to a local community. So, what do we end up doing? We go travelling to another country, changing roots, landscape and community every month. Does not seem to add up, huh? Not intellectually and my body is in doubt.
Are we stuck in the mechanics of a multinational society, reaching over the boarders to get more. The grass is greener and the cows are happier on the other side of the North Sea?
We are learning though. Not only about plants and taking care of animals. We are learning to feel the difference in soils and their characteristics; what grows how in what soil? We are learning to read different landscapes and observing how farmers make use of how nature acts in these landscapes; how to make use of what place? We are learning different unwritten codes of countryside social life through meeting different local communities; realizing how important the social connections really are.
We are getting ready for the moment when we will look for a place to settle. Tuning our senses to feel what soil, landscape and community that is right for us. Who knows, in the end, life might guide us and a place might choose us. Either way we are collecting references for that time and enjoying the view while doing so!