Monday 27 May 2013

Give and Grow, Walk and Be Well

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 06 Beans and Peas to Give and GrowSustainable Bungay's 4th annual Give and Grow event last Sunday (20th May) at the Bungay Community Library garden held a particular significance this year in the light of the recently passed EU "Plant Reproductive Material Law" aiming to regulate and restrict the sale, exchange or growth of all plants unless officially registered.

This would have impacted severely upon our freedom to (legally) "Give and Grow" in the manner of even our humble SB events, had the law not been mitigated in the final hour due to pressure from growers, gardeners and lovers of plants and freedom from all over Europe. See The Real Seed Catalogue's page for more information and why we need to keep an eye on this law (and take a look at their great vegetable seed list, too).

Our 2nd Well-Being walk took place after the Give and Grow with a group of six adults and three children setting off through town and the annual Bungay Garden Street Market, where we were joined by Sofia, recently moved to Norwich where she is studying midwifery. So here is a story in mostly pictures and some words of both the Give and Grow and the Well-being walk:

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 01 Lesley
Lesley Hartley, who is curating this year's Edible Bed in the centre of the library garden. Note the crimson flowered broad bean to Lesley's left. After a slow post-cold-winter start, the garden is beginning to respond to Lesley's hard work.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 02 Lesley and Mark
Plant Medicine 2012 meets Edible Bed 2013. Mark and Lesley trying not to hide behind flowering brussels. What was that about Brussels, seeds and plants..? Keep giving and growing!

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 03 Brussels, Sign, Van
Brussels, A-Board and the big old red Post Office van, which Eloise has picked up all the large Give and Take day furniture and garden donations in over the last three years and used to deliver items to people after the events. As well as couriering display boards for Bee group events and other talks and workshops.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 03A Nick, Mark & Lesley
 Nick shows Mark how to construct a make-shift seed envelope. This turned out to be a double (flowered?) version.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 04 Richard planting Primroses
Richard demonstrates how to divide primrose roots and replant them. Primroses respond well to root division and the best time to start is just as the flowers are going over. Here Richard explains that even a small section of root like the one in his hands will resprout, though a misting table is best for roots this size.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 08 Richard planting Primroses 2
 A new tray of primroses.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 05 Double-flowered feverfew
Double-flowered feverfew growing out of the cracks and just about to come into flower. Feverfew leaves are a well-known herbal remedy for migraine. I'd never heard of anyone who'd actually used it till last year. A lady from Beccles came to a Plants for Life session and told us she swore by feverfew and used it any time she felt the beginnings of a migraine lurking. "Do you put it in bread," I asked. I'd read countless times that bread helped it to be easier on the stomach. "Oh no, I just eat a couple of leaves raw. Always works!"

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 07 Tony Reading TFP
You can't go to a Give and Grow event anywhere these days without coming across someone reading the Transition Free Press! Tony in  deep concentration.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 09 Charlotte and Tony
And isn't that the TFP's editor sitting there with Tony? What a coincidence!

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 10 Paul and Rob and TFP in Pocket
Goodness me! Is that ANOTHER copy of Transition Free Press sticking out of Paul's pocket?

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 11 Straw Bale Culture by Lesley
Straw bale culture. Cucumber. nasturtiums and giant pumpkin planted by Lesley for EastFeast at the Street Garden Market.

We've now left the library and the Give and Grow and started our well-being walk. No one was in any rush to leave the courtyard garden though, it was so relaxing.

We mapped out the route between us deciding to go via the market to the bridge at the bottom of Earsham Street and then down Castle Lane which skirts round the castle ruins. A favourite walk for several people, some found the castle ruins romantic, some liked visiting the wildflowers and others found it an  enjoyable route for walking the children to school.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 12 EastFeast at the Market
A brief stop at the East Feast stall (love that hat, Dano!), to play a board game with the children, and then on to  Orchard End Herbs: "I know you," I said to a young woman there. "You came to my Trade School class on rosemary and circulation at the Common Room in Norwich a few months back. Would you like to join us on our well-being walk?" "That'd be great," said Sofia. "And I'd like to bring some friends to Happy Mondays tomorrow. How do I book?" "You need to talk to Josiah," I said. "And he's coming on the walk, too."

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 13 Looking Over the Bridge
Leaving the market (and the Punch and Judy show) and heading down to Earsham Street bridge and the River Waveney. This is one of Sally's favourite places to visit.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 14 Bridge Over the River
Waterweeds in the Waveney.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 15 Occupying the Street
Reuben leads us purposefully to Castle Lane.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 16 Down to the River
Take Me To The River, but don't drop me in the water... at least not until August when we combine our annual picnic with a swim.

Give&Grow and Well Being Walk May 2013 18 Edge of Flowers
Back lanes full of wildflowers and garden escapes, from cow parsley and Babington's poppy to shining cranesbill and grape hyacinth. One of Bungay's delights.

Give&Grow and Well-Being Walk May 2013 17 Sitting on the Bench
Sitting (and climbing) on the bench, before heading back to Sally's for a cup of tea. The whole walk was very relaxed and took about an hour and a quarter. To find out when our next Wellbeing walk is, check out the Sustainable Bungay Calendar - all welcome!

Images (all by Mark Watson): Beans, peas and seeds; Lesley and the Edible Bed; Mark and Lesley behind the flowering broccoli - medicine plant bed 2012 meets edible plant bed 2013; brussels, board and red van; making seed envelopes; Richard demonstrates primrose division 1 & 2; double-flowered feverfew growing through the concrete; Tony gets the lowdown with Transition Free Press; And again with TFP's editor Charlotte; Give and Grow and sit down for a chat; straw bale culture; garden street market with Dano; Earsham Street Bridge; waterweeds; follow the leader;  down by the Waveney; plants along the wayside; on the bench

First published 27th May 2013 on Sustainable Bungay's website

Saturday 18 May 2013

Crossing tracks - A Conversation with Jeppe Graugaard

Last winter I had a conversation with Jeppe Graugaard. We sat by the fire in my house and he switched on his tape recorder and though I felt bone-weary, bone-cold, exhausted by months of flu, I looked back at the track I had made over the last decades and found a kind of pattern there that made sense of things in a way I had not seen before. It sparked something alive. Although I have spent a great deal of my life interviewing people and hearing their stories, this was the first time anyone had sat down and asked me questions and was interested in the answers.This kind of attention is rare in our me-only, rush-rush world. About as rare as a ray of sun in that hard and difficult winter.

When Jeppe published our conversation in his blog a month later, just as Spring came, it was a revelation. In all honesty I can't remember saying any of this! I told him. He was now in a summerhouse in his native Denmark, writing up his Phd thesis about grassroots innovation, based on the Dark Mountain Project. I was amazed at how he had transcribed our talk almost verbatim, as he had with many other Dark Mountaineers, the thinkers, artists and activists who have helped shape this cultural network. Because I know exactly how many long painstaking hours that takes to do.

I had first met Jeppe briefly in 2009 at the first (and only) Arts and Culture meeting held by the Heart and Soul group upstairs at Take 5. We had decided to hold our first midsummer Transition party up at the Ranger's House on Mousehold Heath. He was about to research alternative currencies in Lewes and so never made it up there among the tents and trees.

But somehow our tracks crossed again: we met two years later at the Uncivilisation Festival and decided to start our own Dark Mountain Norwich group. When Rob Hopkins came to Norwich Jeppe wrote a piece about Transition for This Low Carbon Life called Reimagining the Future. He had come that winter weekend with Vanessa (who I had originally met at Occupy Norwich and asked to write for OneWorldcolumn) and we had all spoken at our Sustainable Bungay Give and Take Day about the Gift Economy. We had recently taught Trade classes - about time, about flowers, about communications and making - at the second prototype day for The Common Room at St Lawrence's Church (the third is happening today as I write). Tracks that were making a certain pattern in time and space.

Recently I took part in an on-line conversation about grassroots groups and I found myself realising that what I valued about Transition, what I valued about Dark Mountain, and all the groups I have connected with or written about were the networks of people and the shape and sense they made of my own life. Not necessarily my personal life, but a communal passage through the world that is part of an invisible pattern we can't always see. Those seemed to be more powerful and interesting than any other connections I could think if. And what I was saying in the thread was that the desire to belong to community of people in the way it is commonly understood, was not really my own desire, which is always to contribute to a radical cultural shift on this planet.

Sometimes the "communities" we think we are part of, those circles and clubs, don't necessarily make the meaningful shape that a network does. And some of the difficulties we encounter in such groups are caused by our wanting them to be our people, our family, our friends, when the kinds of people that are part of a network are not configured to provide that kind of emotional or material security. It's a freer and more dynamic exchange. We pop up in different places, in different guises over time. And when we meet, those meetings are treasured at a deep level, knowing they will not last for long. Those intense and focused conversations that happen at the edges in Transition are perhaps the most fruitful and enjoyable parts of our shared human experience. Certainly mine.

Today Jeppe is writing by a lake in Denmark and I am walking in a bluebell wood in England. We're meeting again in August at the fourth (and final) Uncivilisation Festival where Jeppe will be talking about Time Culture and I'll be talking about Rewilding the Self. I'm looking forward to that and all the conversations we'll be having around the fire under the stars.

Anyway here is the opening of our winter conversation. You can read the whole thing here.

Medicine Stories, Liberation and Shifting Allegience

JDG: I thought maybe a place to start was with something which you say in the beginning of your book 52 Flowers That Shook My World. Early on in the book you talk about ‘shifting allegiance’ away from civilisation towards the planet and this is something that has stuck with me. You say it happens on two levels: one is in the imagination, that’s the first step, and then it happens in the physical world when you start rearranging yourself in a way that can express that shift of allegiance. I thought maybe we could start with this, how that has turned out for you, going from living in London and being a fashion editor a long time ago to being here now. And I know that’s a very long journey and a big jump but maybe you can lay out what you think has been most important or what has been some of the most valuable stuff you learned from that process?

CDC: I am not a very linear person and I live in a very linear culture of the beginning-middle-and-end kind of stories that one is brought up with. But the stories that would grab me when I was young were the fairytales and the myths. I learnt myths very early on, the classical myths and Greek-Roman myths, which are the ones I know the best. Right from the age of seven or eight those were the things that really profoundly affected my imagination. And they don’t operate in beginning-middle-and-end. Although in some ways they use that sequence that’s not the world they operate in. They operate in this mythic, archaic dreamtime imagination, which is where I feel very much at home and which is the guiding principle of everything I write . . . .

This decade has been all about making myself at home in my own native land, which is a big practice and very hard to do in England. And part of that has been joining Transition where I’ve had to learn how to work with people and as a group in a different way. Talking about things we have been talking about today [in Sustainable Bungay] about the gift economy, about learning how to share, about learning how to give up individualism, which is a process in itself. Because even though you go travelling, you’re not necessarily working in a group. It’s still all about you. It could be about you and the great humanity or you and the great universe, you and the great planet, but it is not you and a bunch of people. Knowing the land as a people. That’s very different. That’s how we used to be.

For example, in Mexico when the Huichols walk to the mountain, they walk with the people. They are not walking as little, individual people trying to get their moment of enlightenment before they go back to the city. It’s a totally different thing: they are walking as a people. And most tribal and archaic people do this as a people, they don’t do it as individuals. You know, you might go and have your vision quest to find your name but you are coming back to the tribe, you are coming back to be one of the people, to be an integral part of it. So we’ve lost that. We’re trying to relearn it, I think. It’s on quite a humble level. Like doing things like ‘give and take’ today, community meals for fifty, it’s trying to get back to understanding what that’s like. That’s a much harder practice, I think . . . .

It has to be about heart. If you live a life governed by heart that is a different world to if you live a life governed by the rational mind. They are just different universes. So something that heart can feel and intuit, and intention being part of it, that has a currency and an agency that the rational doesn’t even recognise. It doesn’t know what you are talking about.

So, of course, if you sit down and do something with good intent - and you know that in your heart whether you have good intent or not – that has a power and agency that you cannot see but it will make all the difference. You can sit down with no intent and tick all the boxes and nothing will happen because you’ve got no good intent. Because it is not locked into what I would call the fabric of this world which we can’t see. The fabric of the world which we can’t see understands intention. That’s why some people do these strategic acts because they’re learning how to work with intention, so it makes sense within the fabric of the world.

So when they do one thing that echoes in all places… it’s like a hologram. You know, you do one thing in one tiny place and it goes in all places. That’s what I mean by making an intentional act. And that means everything, but the rational mind doesn’t understand that. It's a right [brain] hemisphere thing. We can’t even talk about it, really, but we know it. We understand it. We get a feeling for it. Transition sits down and goes “we need workshops, we need to get stats on that”. It’s all information. But that only goes so far. The point we are at is that we’ve got as far as facts and information can take us. And now something else has to kick in.

You can tell people “the Earth is coming to an end unless you do something”, well yeah, ok, that’s a piece of information. That’s not awareness. If you were aware of it you’d be going: “Right OK, what needs to be done?" That’s awareness. At least you are there, you’re going “OK, so now I know. So now I live in a different place”. That’s where Dark Mountain is. Which is why I like it. It doesn’t go in all guns blazing to try and sort everybody out. It sits on that very uncomfortable edge. It’s enough to be aware right now. Then we’ll see."

Text and photos from Remembering - Pattern Which Connects; Jeppe (left) at The Common Room, Norwich, February 2013; Dark Mountain Norwich crew in Kevin's camper van, Suffolk, July 2012; Uncivilisation Festival will take place on 15-18 August at the Sustainability Centre, Hampshire.

Saturday 11 May 2013

The NR35 Dead-Hedgers Society

Image3822 low resIt just so happened that the five of us who turned up at Richard’s on Wednesday morning in Bungay to learn how to do dead-hedging with Paul were all over 50, and so the ad hoc name we came up with for that morning’s grouping was the NR35 Dead-Hedgers Society - the Over 50s Contingent!

However, anyone of any age was welcome to join the new Transition social enterprise, NR35 (NR = Natural Resources and NR35 is the local postcode) practical dead-hedge laying session.

Image3823 low res
This involved laying out and hammering in stakes staggered along a boundary of about twenty-five feet, and then placing and roughly weaving in branches and twigs from recently coppiced trees between the stakes. Making a hedge in this way would not only provide Richard with a decent boundary, but create a refuge for wildlife. Birds like wrens will often build their nests in dead hedges. Tony found an old nest rather larger than a wren’s, which we placed in the hedge once we’d finished.

Image3845 low res
This was the first time dead-hedging for all of us except Paul, who is a professional tree surgeon, and who taught us with consummate calm and patience. I asked everyone how it had been for them:

Cathy: Well, it uses up an amazing amount of material you might think would be difficult to dispose of. And it’s delightful doing it with others.

Nick: It’s hard work and it makes you sweat, but I’m surprised how easily we managed to get a good end-product (the hedge), in  the space of 2 hours. And it’s brilliant we can go away and do it ourselves now.
Image3848 low res
Tony: Working as a team is really good fun. And it’s satisfying to start off with all this dead material and end up with a hedge.

I asked Paul how he found us as a group to teach: ”It’s been really satisfying. Everyone’s been very receptive and quick to learn the skills and techniques. The results speak for themselves: we have a very reasonable dead-hedge. I’ve seen a lot worse.”

Image3859 low resMe: I found the whole morning instructive and really good fun. I noticed that being physically engaged in building the dead hedge you got into a kind of rhythm with everyone- I would find my hands often knew just what to do. It would have taken forever to do it from a book.

Part of dead-hedging is jumping up and down on top of the laid branches when they’re at a certain height. Cathy and I held hands and pogo-ed up and down together. Later, I realised that over the years I’ve frequently bounced up and down at our events!

Just because you’re over 50 doesn’t mean you’ve got no bounce! Or that you can’t learn a new practical skill in the course of a morning in a congenial atmosphere with fellow reskilling dead-hedgers.

Image3840 lowres
For more information on Sustainable Bungay’s NR35 Natural Resources group, see here.

All images by Mark Watson: Hammering in the staggered stakes; building the hedge from the bottom up; bird’s nest; receptive and quick to learn; the finished dead-hedge; bouncing up and down on the hedge

Originally posted on Sustainable Bungay's website 10th May 2013

Saturday 4 May 2013

Welcome to the new summer edition!

On Wednesday, May 1, the new national Transition Free Press published its on-line summer edition  - 24 pages of full-on, full colour news and views. Great photographs, great articles, contributed by Transitioners and community activists working in the field.

These are stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary stuff in all kinds of places: in the city, in the wild, in books, housing co-ops, small businesses, in the park, down the pub, on the (solar- panelled) roof, underwater, even on the netball court. We're in Greece, Spain, France and Portugal; we're in Sheffield, Louth, Crystal Palace and Lostwithiel. We're also in Norwich, on sale at The Greenhouse and at events and hubs including Norwich FarmShare and this weekend's May Day Fair in Chapelfield Gardens.

twodamselsOur on-line version, of course, goes everywhere and anywhere, but we feel there is nothing quite like the real thing. So if you can't put your hands on the physical paper locally, you can always subscribe for a year and receive your copy through the post.

During the next few weeks we will be publishing some of this edition's highlights on theTransition Free Press website. Meanwhile here is the introduction to give you a taste.

Welcome to issue two

Energy underpins everything we do in our industrialised societies. The high demand for gas, oil, coal or bio-fuels, as our front page story shows, is now costing the earth on which we depend for life. How we face this dilemma and reduce our need for power is the work of the Transition movement and thousands of community activists around the world.

Most of us are invisible. But, like mycorrhizzal fungi in the living soil, we are connecting and communicating across the globe, working to bring about a future where people can live fairly within ecological limits. In our summer edition we publish stories you might not ordinarily see – actions communities undertake to bring back life into neighbourhoods, to activate soils that have been deadened and contaminated, to create new networks that can hold us together in challenging times. An infrastructure you can feel but not always see.

944493_648593525166742_1174153410_nThe proposed Keystone XL pipeline threatens to bring toxic crude oil through the heartland of America. Ancient trees fall to make a by-pass in a peaceful valley in Sussex. In response people rise up and take on mighty corporations and rapacious stakeholders. Sometimes that might is challenged. We won! wrote TFP columnist, Shaun Chamberlin, as the Ecological Land Co-operative finally secured planning permission for a smallholding in Devon. For a Goliath culture whose top-down business-as-usual worldview requires everyone’s assent, this may appear a small victory. But  each time we voice our dissent, each time we reclaim our fields, we realise we are not alone in our task.

Why to do we tell these stories? Because they are sparks that light a great fire inside us. Because another culture is being forged under our feet. In an abandoned warehouse in Doncaster people gather on a freezing night by a furnace to listen to a new narrative being told, along the River Dart  a group of children and elders go on a story walk in search of the future. A sunflower garden appears in a neighbourhood in Portalegre. An artist plants 100 fruit trees in a university in Loughborough. In the cities everywhere, leaves appear through the cracks and are gathered by foragers. A dominant worldview does not mean we do not have agency.

girassolWhat we are not told is that there is an emergent world inside us. You can find it everywhere where there is warmth and generosity and a co-operative spirit: in community cafes, park libraries, pop-up shops, trade schools, abundance projects, repair cafes, people’s kitchens. It comes in all the colours of the rainbow, it sounds like the nightingale singing in the dark in May. For all people who sing in the dark, who stand by the land, the bird and the tree, who hold the fire until the dawn comes, this paper is for you.

Charlotte Du Cann, Editor

936933_10151603564244935_833123159_nImages: artist and activist, Anne-Marie Culhane (People); Bee-friendly plants from the Honeyscribe project by Amy Shelton (Living Earth); Oil Change International poster (News); sunflower from neighbourhood garden in Portalegre  (Profile); TFP button by Trucie Mitchell and Chris Wells

To subscribe for a year click here   

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