Saturday, August 23, 2008

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Big Chill festival as we had free tickets courtesy of having been washed out at the Sunrise Festival......see previous blog from May!.........our Sunrise tickets were exchanged for Big Chill tickets and the Sunrise held part of their festival in the other festival! Well there were 45,000 people there and it was huge!.......and more importantly very very hilly! We parked our car and headed for the camping fields....
Half an hour later we got to one and pitched on the side of a hill making staying on the lilo whilst asleep challenging! can see from the 'view from our tent' pic that we were overlooking the other tents! This was one of many guy rope to guy rope camping areas. It was a further walk and scramble of about 40 minutes to get from tent to main festy site first along the track, then up the hill then along another track and then the site of the main stage, pictured above unfolded below, so then down and in through the check point. Exhausted from all the lugging of stuff the excitement was just beginning, no wonder the porride with everything food stall was the first thing you came to......after all that walking sustenance was needed!
Talking of walking........once you made it to the main site it was soooooo big it took 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other.........if 1. you didn't get caught up in the crowds leaving one of the stages or 2. you didn't get distracted!
AND add to the equation my bad knees (ouch ouch) and the fact that due to the hilly ground the only people who could get a vague signal on their phone was vodaphone customers.........if you lost someone you never found them again!!!
The Sunrise end was an oasis of peace in a dizzy round of clubbing and comedy interspaced with main stage acts. Below are 'The Buzzcocks' on the second stage. While there I enjoyed some interesting music but thought it a little boring to be honest! Also I thought the amount of overt drug dealing and rubbish dropping was appaling!
Last weekend, on my return from the Permaculture teachers course we went to Beautiful Days Festival.........Foul weather but great line up including Squeeze, Gabriella Cilimi, Stiff Little Fingers, Seth Lakeman and the ever green Oysterband.........It was great, and despite leaving early and missing the Levellers and the firework finale because of extreme rain we loved it!

On yet another sad note we lost one of our Ouessant sheep today, Two days ago she was seen to be a bit quiet and on closer inspection was found to have a very acute, fast acting mastitis known as 'blue bag' This is where septicaemia happens before you even know the sheep is ill and less than 25% survive. We kept her going for 2 days following vets advice, but yesterday we took her in as an in patient at the vets.........unfortunately despite the best care she died. Luckily this is a very rare condition......but of course it was one of my best ewes and I have a very large vets bill!
Below are some very jolly drummers etc in the Sunrise field at the Big Chill

Friday, August 15, 2008

Well news update is that the felting machine has arrived and is in the unit awaiting a plug and installation! It being the summer holidays progress is slow, but we are getting there! I have been on a training of trainers course, primarily to brush up my teaching skills as I am about to embark on a lot of teaching and awareness raising about felt, wool and sustainable textiles, but secondly because it was a training course aimed at permaculture teachers and as far as I'm concerned what I'm doing is all part of permaculture......or is it?
I am beginning to dislike the 'P' word and have come back from the course reflective, sad, disillusioned and angry......yes very angry!.........not the sort of anger that is violent or aggressive but the sort that will mean I keep battling on.
You may well wonder what on earth i'm muttering on about, well I will try and explain!
I am a small farmer, a smallholder, hobby farmer, backyarder, good lifer,..........there are so many terms, some like hobby farmer rather derogatory.........I'd like to see the face of a farmer with 200 acres who works his butt off farming, but has a day job to make ends meet when he is called a 'hobby' farmer!
Most 'farmers' in developing countries have postage stamp size plots and they are called subsistance farmers.....its certainly not a hobby to them!
I digress, forgive me!
I have been this past week on a lovely little 5 acre smallholding in Dorset called Ourganics run by a lovely lady called Pat Foxwell, with the help of wwoofers and other volunteers.
I thought attending a course there would be great.....a fantastic resourse that we would be taught how to use in teaching permaculture, sustainable living wrong can I be!
To be quite honest the wonderful setting, the local countryside was totally ignored and we were in a yurt or sitting outside on the grass, depending on the weather!
I will not go into the course itself here as that would be wrong and I will consider the feedback I will make about it to the convenors carefully.
The thing was that it felt to me as if I permaculture was a religious order! Holmgrens principles = the ten commandments, meditation to me equates with prayers, a mandela/altar, songs of permaculture = hymns, closing ritual ceremony = eeeek I want to get out of here and now!
I felt like running home and staying there!
However I am going to use one of dear old Holmgrens principles to explain...........
'Use the edges and value the marginal'
In a nutshell these are "complex interfaces between one habitat and another.......for example increasing the 'edge' betw
een a field and a pond can increase the productivity of both"
I have been a smallholder for most of my life! I was recycling before most had heard of had my dad....he kept his nails and screws in old baccy never threw things away! I had been making my own and cooking slow food as opposed to fast food and heating my home with wood long ago!..........I however just did it, I lived it, I didn't label it! So did many of the people I knew! My love for the land and my life is integral, my friends consist of farmers, huntsmen, conservationists, butchers, smallholders, vegans, anti hunt protestors, etc life is across the divide and all encompassing! When I met my husband I was a paid up hunt supporter, he a paid up member of the league against cruel sports! I produce quality meat from my animals, he is a vegetarian. Neither of us have changed our views but we love, respect, understand and tolerate each see I am an edge! I have a foot in 2 camps I can identify with both but am neither ..........I am not a hunter, I am not a mainstream farmer, I am not a 'normal' person with a 9 - 5 job I don't quite fit there..........but neither am I a 'weirdy beardy in sandals ' type(apologies to strange folk in sandals who happen to have a beard!) nor am I a hippy, a traveller or an 'earth activist' whatever that may be ..........its a lonely road being an edge as both habitats see you as not quite belonging to them.......but its an edge that can increase the productivity of both habitats, so really I'm quite valuable.........

Permaculture is a challenge to me..............I didn't' see the permaculture light!' It didn't 'cha
nge my life'...........and I want to show and teach sustainability without props, structures, principles, functions, elements, acronyms ..............without morning circles, reviews, and bloomin spirals AND without the dreaded 'P' word

I could walk away, shake my head, tell myself that they are winding themselves into a web that alienates themselves from normal people, but what would be the point.? No I am going to hang on in there clutching hold of the shirt tails of permaculture with one hand and the collar of farming with the other, whilst yelling
my head off from the edge with a vengence!
I end with a picture looking from the A37 Yeovil to Dorchester road where it crosses high along the Downs beloved of Hardy....I took the picture on the way home from the course when I stopped to look at one of my favourite views across towards Rampisham and think for a while leaning on a gate.

Addendum....just after publishing this entry I got a phone call from one of my daughters to let me know that a contempoary of theirs from their days at pony club, a nice lad at whose mothers farm i had kept my horses and loaned their old eventer Misty had committed suicide from a Dorset clifftop aged 27...................