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...................


Blu said...

A brilliant post, I understand about being in two camps at once. However sorry to read about a life lost. sometimes life gets on top of you ..but to read that someone took such a drastic decision awful..

Take care Best wishes from Blu Brittany France x

hen said...

I am so sorry to hear about your daughters friend Val.

It seems I've gone through the same process as you about Permaculture. Good on you for not letting it drag you down! There's nothing wrong with the principles of PC but as with most religions, it's the humans that process those principles that are the problem.


Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Hi Val!
What a super post. I really like robust, intelligent and fair debate and your blog is a perfect example. I'm not at all religious and I hate evangelism, of any kind. I reckon that, if one believes in something, then one should adhere to that thing, quietly following its principles, learning and adapting them (yes, rules are definitely there to be broken) so that, one day, someone walking past might be impressed and actually ask what you're up to. That's a lot different from the sort of uncomfortable evangelism you're talking about. Permaculture is actually quite a large entity and the people you're describing are only a subset, thankfully, so don't give up just yet (it sounds as if you don't plan to).
Permaculture is a design system, not a religion, so it's a practical thing rather than a spiritual thing. It's about looking closely at how ecosystems work and using them as a model in the design of everything from a vegetable plot to a house. The "founders", Bill Mollison and David Holmgren would be the first to admit that many of its elements are not new at all (thinking of your dad and our elderly French neighbours) but perhaps it does make some new connections between old savoire faire (know how).
To lift your spirits and get you back on track, buy Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Lanscape Naturally by Robert Kourik who is both experienced and practical and not a bit religious or evangelical when it comes to permaculture, in fact he rarely mentions the "P" word at all. Once you've placed your book order, have a look at Geoff Lawton's great video on Greening the (Jordanian) Desert ... that's what Permaculture is really all about!

Val Grainger said...

Thanks Guys! At least I know I'm not totally bonkers!
I have seen the greening the desert video.......brilliant! I have also seen Robert Kouriks book.........and since I have been designing and maintaining an edible landscape for a long time myself and agree with a lot of what he has to say as proved by trial and error would reccommend it too!

hen said...

hee hee! just wanted to make sure that noone thought I reckoned Permaculture was a religion! It's just that in my experience there are many that act like it were!!



Val Grainger said...

Exactly Hen! I knew what you meant! Permaculture has got to appeal to all with no exceptions!

Compostwoman said...

Val I know exactly what you mean about being an "edge"

I have had a similar background to much so it is quite spooky!

Just stick to your beliefs and know you are right....its all about what you feel., after all !


Sorry to hear about your young friend tho' such a sad waste of a good life unlived...:-((

hen said...

Val, If you go and have a quick poke at me blog, there's something there for you...


maylin said...

Sorry to hear abou your daughters friend. Such an act is doubly sad as it speaks of despar.

A very thought provoking post. I like your definition of yourself as an 'edge'. I have similarly struggled all my life not to take on labels because there are few things that I feel I agree to without reservation and can generally see some value in the opposing direction. It leads for an uncomfortable life though as it also means you are not totally accepted anywhere. It is the price to pay for being an individual.

However the things you describe as 'religious trappings' I recognise very well from the non violent directaction movement of the early eighties. A lot of them were popularised in the 'Monster Manual' (nickname for the Resource Manual for a Living Revolution) published by the Movement for a New Society. They were resource tools with specific aims, like getting to know people fast, engendering trust etc. All very useful within groups that had just formed and needed to be able to reliy absolutely on each member in a very short time (in order to break the law). Like alot of useful tools they entered the mainstream and can be very valuable. However also like things that are no longer there for their original purpose they can lose meaning and seem to be used for their own sake. They are pointless where they make people uncomfortable. Conversely though for people who are used to them they are very comforting. There obviously needs to be some rethinking and some honest dialogue.

Things can change and are generally better changed from the inside.

Greentwinsmummy said...

I am so sorry to read about your dds friend :o( x

On the subject of permaculture,well hurrah,reading your post was very refreshing for me,I have often felt *not quite proper missis* as I have never read a book on it,been to a course nor build a herb spiral..pulls slightly exasperated face. The very word sets my teeth on edge(Attachment Parenting is another grrrrrr)

I cannot stand *phrases* & *labels* ,for some who do like te labels,if you DONT then it means you are not really into it....sigh...

ah ok then,I'll just keep doing what I am doing then,I have always found getting orn with things far preferable to endless talking about it anyhow.

I think I am an edge sort :o) I must admit when I saw the festival pictures I thought eeek rather you than me! I went to a tiny one during the day once & go so many scowls because I to some *looked normal* (crazy! I am not normal I am me!)that I never tried such a thing before.

Sitting in a yurt doesnt make one more spiritual or in tune with nature,if its in your heart you can sit behind a desk or behind a cooker & have deep stirrings & insights :O)

GTM x x x x x

La Ferme de Sourrou said...

Hi Val,

I've just returned from my Permaculture course and I know exactly what you mean!!!

I don't think people who have already been doing "Permaculture" things for years should worry unduly about cult status or "labels". Fashions come and go and whatever you choose to call it, living simply and well and sharing your crops and your know-how will always be the right thing to do.

I think anything that helps people learn more about a better way of living has to be a good thing. :-)

Irene xxx

MrsL said...

Good post, Val. Much my own thoughts. Like most things in life, I take bits and pieces from here and there - one of those here and theres is permaculture. One of my friends, a trained and "qulaified" teacher of permaculture design commented that my garden wasn't a permaculture garden as it had too many plants and flowers in it of the non-edible kind. Gardening should feed the soul as well as the body....I don't think you could really label my garden or lifestyle at all, it is full of bits of organics, biodynamics, permaculture, closed loops, open loops (:)), composting, recycling, good lifing - all sorts. The only label it needs is "mine", same with my life.