Language of the soul, rooted in the soil

What does your community, your birthplace or your country, mean to you? 

How do you express your own belonging? Do you feel you belong at all? 

What is the language of your soul, and how would you like it to be heard? 

Where is the homeland of your heart?

 Scotland

This morning Scotland voted ‘No’ to independence, with nearly 85 per cent of eligible voters casting their lot.

In an era where apathy and disillusionment among voters is widespread, the question of independence has sparked passionate debate and purposeful action like no other.

Among the political commentary have been lyrical expressions of belonging, ownership, and what it means to live authentically. Individuals and politicians alike have written and spoken in words close to poetry, describing their personal beliefs about independence. For many, it runs so deep that they feel the very soil of Scotland has grown its people. It is in this soul language that we have seen the unifying effect of community expressed.

The loss of connection from self, and in a wider sense, from community, is one of the root causes of societal sicknesses. Feeling that we not only belong to our community, but that we have authority and autonomy to live within it, is a birthright increasingly denied to many. Witnessing the outpouring of emotion, both for and against Scottish Independence, has shown how deeply felt are the bonds that tie us together.

Community ties are powerful, magical and meaningful. They bring beauty when they are nurtured, but can also inspire violence and hurt when they are not honoured. In communities where individuals do not feel bound to each other in any meaningful way, crimes against each other and their environment soar. Conversely, in even the poorest and most challenged communities if there are strong bonds, people flourish.

Here at Embercombe we draw on the rich history of indigenous populations. We value ceremony, tradition and spirituality. Our community is built upon a core belief that we are all equal, all of intrinsic value, all capable of contributing to the place where we live, work and grow.

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We sit in circle every morning to welcome the day. Acknowledging that all members of this community have a voice and a presence that is both welcome and needed. This daily meeting is held no matter the weather, touched by the warmth of the morning sun, or the soft breath of the fire. Our connection to each other and to our land is called to our attention every day, reaffirming that we belong to this place, and we belong to this tribe.

Scotland is a place of extraordinary beauty and wildness. Sun-bleached beaches, wind-worn stone circles and rain-lashed mountains have indeed grown communities who feel deeply rooted in their land. This connection with land, life and love is as old as human society itself, and we celebrate it. We would love to know where home is for you, please share your story of soul (and soil) with us in the comments box below.

Language of the soul, rooted in the soil.

What does your community, your birthplace or your country, mean to you?

How do you express your own belonging? Do you feel you belong at all?

What is the language of your soul, and how would you like it to be heard?

Where is the homeland of your heart?

This morning Scotland voted ‘No’ to independence, with nearly 85 per cent of eligible voters casting their lot.

In an era where apathy and disillusionment among voters is widespread, the question of independence has sparked passionate debate and purposeful action like no other.

Among the political commentary have been lyrical expressions of belonging, ownership, and what it means to live authentically. Individuals and politicians alike have written and spoken in words close to poetry, describing their personal beliefs about independence. For many, it runs so deep that they feel the very soil of Scotland has grown its people. It is in this soul language that we have seen the unifying effect of community expressed.

 

The loss of connection from self, and in a wider sense, from community, is one of the root causes of societal sicknesses. Feeling that we not only belong to our community, but that we have authority and autonomy to live within it, is a birthright increasingly denied to many. Witnessing the outpouring of emotion, both for and against Scottish Independence, has shown how deeply felt are the bonds that tie us together.

Community ties are powerful, magical and meaningful. They bring beauty when they are nurtured, but can also inspire violence and hurt when they are not honoured. In communities where individuals do not feel bound to each other in any meaningful way, crimes against each other and their environment soar. Conversely, in even the poorest and most challenged communities if there are strong bonds, people flourish.

Here at Embercombe we draw on the rich history of indigenous populations.  We value ceremony, tradition and spirituality. Our community is built upon a core belief that we are all equal, all of intrinsic value, all capable of contributing to the place where we live, work and grow.

We sit in circle every morning to welcome the day. Acknowledging that all members of this community have a voice and a presence that is both welcome and needed. This daily meeting is held no matter the weather, touched by the warmth of the morning sun, or the soft breath of the fire. Our connection to each other and to our land is called to our attention every day, reaffirming that we belong to this place, and we belong to this tribe.

 

Scotland is a place of extraordinary beauty and wildness. Sun-bleached beaches, wind-worn stone circles and rain-lashed mountains have indeed grown communities who feel deeply rooted in their land. This connection with land, life and love is as old as human society itself, and we celebrate it.

 

RED LENTIL & COCONUT SOUP

INGREDIENTS (4-6 servings)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 red chili pepper, finely chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

400 gr. of red lentils

1 1/2 ltrs. of vegetable stock (can be made with organic vegetable stock powder)

1 can of coconut milk

salt, pepper

1 heaped tablespoon curry powder

1 heaped tablespoon garam massala powder

1/2 tablespoon of cumin seeds

1/2 tablespoon of fenugreek

1 can of chopped tomatoes

3 tablespoons of a light oil such as sunflower oil

 

PREPARATION

Put a soup pan on a gentle heat and add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and the chili pepper and fry gently. The onion should not go brown, but slightly golden.

Add the curry powder, garam massala, cumin and fenugreek and fry gently. This step is important to bring out all the fragrance and oils from the spices. Add the red lentils to the pan and makes sure they get coated with the spices. When the mixture starts to get slightly dry (but not brown!) add the vegetable stock and tomatoes. Simmer gently until the lentils and carrot are soft and tender. Add the coconut milk and let simmer for another 10 mins. Put a handheld blender in the pan and mix together until you get a nice smooth blend with some of the vegetables still visible. Season with salt & pepper and serve hot with a nice slice of crusty bread!

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

The incredible abundance of harvest time is something everyone who lives or works on the land is familiar with. It’s a time of hard physical work, gathering in the rewards of our efforts across the year. With each barrow of produce that comes in we are reminded of the reasons that effort was invested.

IMG_0295veg box

Walking through the kitchen at Embercombe you are assaulted by the sights and smells of Autumn. Salads are being replaced by thick, spiced soups, blackberries lie in heaps waiting to be melted into jams and puddings, apples drop from the trees in the orchard as you walk by. The seemingly effortless gathering of spoils belies the real investments that many hands have made to make it possible.

Autumn to me has always seemed to be a time full of promise. The air tingles with anticipation of frosts to come and the last sleepy honeybees meander back to their hives, casting a spell over days that seem to last forever – although I know they are really drawing in. There is a magical slowness to the evenings, still warm enough to need no coat, but chill enough to encourage thoughts of lighting the first fires of the year.

 

The bite of wood smoke on the back of my throat, perfuming all my clothes with a rich, earthy smell is the final stamp on the end of summer. I feel myself psychologically bedding in for the cold stretch ahead. While Summer has been a period of creativity, bursting with ideas and energy and life, Autumn is a time of consolidation. Gathering in not only the best of the harvest, but the best ideas, choosing which projects to hold close and champion through the cold, Winter months.

In an age where many of the moods and movements of our seasons are blotted out by the digital nature of our work and home environments, Autumn has always been the one seasonal shift I’ve been unable to ignore. Always the briefest of the seasons (or so it seems to me) inside it is wrapped up a seed of excitement.

The sensation of being on the cusp, held back from the edge, lingering before an inevitable letting go – it is the absolute expression of the perpetual motion of nature. You can literally see the ripening and the entropy all around you, reminding me that I too am in a state of perpetual change.

 

Playful conversations

“Everything in nature flows in cycles and spirals. Everything has its own time, place and direction, including a learning journey.” Chris Holland

This week many parents will have waved off their children to school for the first time. Waking up to the crisp taste of Autumn in the air, brightening our cheeks and refreshing our minds, we are reminded that the turning of the seasons always brings change.

harlia drinking juice

Maintaining a connection with our children that flows with nature can feel more challenging when their daily routine moves to school. There are fewer hours in the day we can play together, and colder weather may encourage us to retreat indoors. Before the central heating goes on and the temptation to plug in to electronic entertainment takes hold – pack away your shorts and t-shirts, get your wellies and warm clothes out in anticipation.

Children on the tractor

Because these late summer weeks on the cusp of Autumnal mellowness are filled with magical ways to build nature play into family life. If you need inspirations, I love my World is a nature connection handbook packed full of ideas and examples of things to try. Keep little hands busy making sticky clay Blobsters with toddlers and try out step-by-step firestarter challenges (suitable from age 5+) where getting muddy is all part of the fun.

There is a special parenting pay-off for staying outside as the seasons turn. It can be tough to keep in touch with what your child is doing all day at school, especially when the stock responses are ‘nothing’ or ‘I can’t remember’.  From the youngest new starters aged 4 to monosyllabic teens starting exam years, staying in touch with their daily experience keeps our connection strong and secure.

Play is the universal language of childhood, it is the way children make sense of and express themselves in their world. Inviting them to meet us in nature and continue to play with us as the days draw in brings it’s own reward; expressive, intuitive, sometimes explosive – they find the language they need to tell us more about who they are. Opening up playful conversations that bridge the space between school and home; conversations that allow us as parents and carers to enter the world of our children’s imaginations and discover what happens in there.

 

The secret seed society

One of the current joys in the garden is in the beauty and the wonder of some of the vegetables that we have left to go to seed.  This week we harvested parsnip seeds, selected from the best of last year’s crop.  The plants were 8ft tall when the seeds had matured sufficiently for the plants to be cut.  Not quite ready yet are the leek seeds from the late variety ‘Bandit’.

seeds

Again, we selected and saved the most wonderful specimens of last year’s crop, and left them to live on into their second year (like parsnips they are biannuals).  They also are taller than me (I am 6ft 5in) and have incredible, joyful pompoms of seeds forming that were absolutely covered in a dozen types of insects a few weeks ago.  We have also been collecting poppy seeds and then shaking them out of their incredible pods.

Seed saving really is a lost science, a lost art.  In the UK today, agriculture is dominated by F1 hybrid seeds which are truly industrialised seeds.  They can’t be saved on the farm, and help to concentrate control of the seed business in the hands of a few big businesses.  One hundred years ago all seeds were open pollinated – locally adapted, containing a healthy genetic diversity, producing true offspring and a wonderful variety of produce.

summer 2014

There has been a 75% loss in this biodiversity since then and there are very few people keeping the remaining populations of OP seeds alive, despite our future being reliant upon them.  Because of this, we are only growing OP seeds, and are saving a few varieties each year.  Later this year we will be hosting an event launching a group called south west seeds saver’s cooperative – a grower’s led seed saving group, that will endeavour to contribute to keeping alive one of our most precious inheritances – an inheritance that has always been in the hands of the people – peasants or farmers in particular – and must come back into these people’s hands.

I was in Brussels last week for a meeting as a representative of the Landworker’s Alliance, learning about the current legislation which is in process of working itself through the EU Commission and Parliament. There is huge pressure being put on governments by multinational companies to open the gates for GMOs into Europe and to introduce very controlling legislation regarding the control and marketing of seeds.

Seeds have been at the heart of ceremonies for cultures around the world always, and it is well over time that we stood up to claim them back as our own – not patentable, not something a company can open, but the product of countless generations of peasants who have worked with nature to create an increasingly rich diversity of seed for future generations.

http://www.open-pollinated-seeds.org.uk/ , http://landworkersalliance.org.uk/

A conversation with Stephan Pfaff, a reflection on LIFEBeat

A conversation with…

Stephan Pfaff: LIFEbeat Faciltator, Embercombe Education Apprentice

Stephan

Working on LIFEBeat has changed me. I already knew that living in this world didn’t mean love, peace and happiness for everybody. I knew that not too far away from me there are people growing up in desperate situations. But I had no idea how big the difference is between knowing this and actually meeting it.

 

As a facilitator on LIFEBeat I heard the young peoples stories who were here for 7 days. They transported us to a completely different place and the reality of the desperate hardship they had lived was suddenly heartbreakingly real.

 

The stories of some of the participants were stories of violence, pain and despair. I wouldn’t judge any of them if they had given up. Yet I witnessed more joy, more love for life and more faith on LIFEBeat than I experienced with any other group of people I’ve met before.

 

In my experience Embercombe has never been so vibrant, so alive, so joyful as with these 50 young people. Building a capsule for these kids in which they felt safe to open up and show their true selves was incredibly demanding, but profoundly satisfying. Working together with an amazing group of skilled, passionate and humane facilitators showed me what it means to be in service. Something I will never forget and will take with me when I leave Embercombe this week.

Last blog from me…

So here it is, the last blog entry for me. No pressure! That’s been a real theme this week, releasing of pressure. I’ve had the opportunity to reveal in my domain of the kitchen, flexing some culinary muscles and delighting in cooking treats. With the garden heaving with produce growing quicker than we can harvest it, the selection of incredible organic produce is just one aspect of the Embercombe magic I will for sure be missing.

lucy luluI could give a recipe for one of the incedible chtuneys and jams, ferments and breads that have come out of our incredible Emberfest, but really, in this last week, what I have been involved in most is cooking! I have loved running our kitchen and the joyious dance of making our sometimes coatic ways work. So, these are the recipes for what we served at our harvest festival and it was yum!

Wild Mushroom casserole

diced celery (small)

bite size chopped mixed root veg like carrot, potatoe and onion.

loads of Garlic

field mushrooms or any other foraged or non foraged mushrooms

red wine

thyme, fresh if you can get it.

rosemary (not so much)

a bay leaf

cooked puy lentils

 

Start by frying the veg and celery in a good amount of oil. Chuck in the bay leaf and season it with salt and pepper, a very wise person just showed me that trick, the potatoes soak up the flavour of the salt and keep it the whole way through the cooking process, this way they taste amazing in the casserole! When they are nearly there, add the loads of garlic. Fry untill they are done, if the veg is sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a ladel or two of liquid, fresh stock if you have it, or water is fine too. Not packaged stock, we don’t need it in this. Keep adding as and when. Add the herbs, really go for it with the thyme, be more shy with the rosemary. Add wine, keep adding it, having a glass at the same time with your fellow cooks, until the bottle is done. It is important the casserole gets it’s fair share. Throw in any other liquid you have around, the water from the puy lentils for instance. Shove in the lentils and cook through. Leave to stand if you can, this casserole as with all casseroles, only improves with time.

Serve with yorkshire pudding and fresh lightly cooked cabbage with butter in it.

 

Baked Apples

cored apples sliced horizontally but left whole

brown sugar

sunflower seeds (soaked)

chopped dates

sultanas

nutmeg

sherry
pinch of salt

Make a mix with the sugar, salt, dates, sultanas, seeds and grated nutmeg. Stuff the apples with it. Pour some sherry over the apples, if you want lots of juice, add more sherry. Bake on a low heat for a long time in a covered tray/ pot. Something like gas mark 4 for 30 mins. Take the lid off and bake for another 5 mins to brown it. Leave it in longer if it looks not done or less if it looks too done. Trust you instincts!

There it is! Over and out!
Love

 

A beautiful pea green life

How does a mobile phone wielding, supermarket shopping, petrol-consuming parent (like me), start travelling towards a greener life? And is the grass really greener over there, anyway? I am a 32 year old mother of two, and I joined Embercombe as a volunteer six months ago. This is the story of how my family has become part of this social enterprise.

natural learning

Low impact living means living in a way that has a low impact on ecology. Being in harmony with nature. There are great and good green goals, living off grid (creating your own energy supply through solar or similar sources), building a straw bale house, eating a diet of only home grown or local fresh produce… I know from experience that to the uninitiated, low-impact life can sound suspiciously worthy and very hard work. Even a bit hobbit-in-the-shire.

High impact living means living in a way that is driven by consumerism, the capitalist utopia of having it all and always striving for (and somehow affording) more. Working for a corporation, driving a car, gobbling up energy with the same enthusiasm my children raid the biscuit tin. With the same naïve assumption that when the biscuits are gone, someone will provide more, in a limitless, gratifying supply.

Digestive biscuitsRealising that filling up the biscuit tin is getting harder because the cost of living is rising, may seem like a very minor introduction to the global energy crisis. But these tiny, everyday events are an entry point to understanding that energy everywhere is becoming costly. Deeply, frighteningly costly. And these are the same, day-to-day experiences that each of us can relate to – exactly where we are.

We can’t tackle the monsters of consumerism on our own any more than most of us can move into a hobbit house. But many of us care about them all the same, without an ounce of an idea where our own actions fit in. Among many things, Embercombe has become a jumping off point for individuals to meet a different way of life and celebrate the first tentative steps we take towards sustainability.

I began bringing my children to natural learning at Embercombe in March this year. Witnessing their rapid immersion in farm life was an absolute joy. Moving out of city centre, indoor playgroups to gathering handfuls of clover to feed sheep and leaping off haystacks in the sunshine has given them both an explosion of confidence. Physically, emotionally and practically.

Their curiosity has also come alive. Stopping to examine beautiful purple and green crickets, stripping black current bushes bare until their fingers (and cheeks) are dripping with deep red juice. Asking the gardeners what we are eating – and oh! The excitement of seeing them choose salad for lunch and eat it, because they picked it. This one weekly adventure for our family has sparked an equivalent confidence in me. The gradual expansion of Embercombe into our home began with a packet of pea-seeds, a tub and some compost.

boys peas

I recognise that planting a little bit of food in the garden isn’t going to translate into a small-holding overnight. But planting something we will eventually eat has been an empowering step. Helping my children to grow something, to nurture it and harvest a (very tiny, but exciting) crop for their tea demonstrates how our farm visits are influencing a lifestyle change.

I have witnessed my children become more interested in the pea shoots than the biscuit tin. We get in the car less, play out more. Turn the TV off, go bug catching instead. The cost of living has reduced incrementally and as our low-impact activities take off, the biggest impact is on our wellbeing.

It’s a story of small beginnings, sparked by the beauty and enthusiasm of Embercombe and the vibrant community here. We hope that many of you experience similar small beginnings – please share your stories with us here!

We are in grief

When we turn our faces out to the world, the destruction and despair we meet can be overwhelming. So much pain, so much trauma, so much grief. News that flows from Gaza from Iraq from Syria from Liberia and here at home conveys the palpable suffering of our children.

A deep sadness sits at the heart of our experience of our world, as we witness their destruction. For the love of our children we must allow the sadness to be expressed and acknowledged. Beyond outrage and politics, beyond national borders, economics and television there is the simple truth that we live in an age when the Children’s Fire has been extinguished from the institutions of power that govern us.

“A society that would not place the children’s fire at the centre of its institutions of power…is an insane society. A society that is lost to itself. A society that is caught within a dream that is self-destructive to the Nth degree.”

Mac Macartney

But this is not a time to be hopeless, or to excuse ourselves with a story of our helplessness. Each one of us carries a spark that can rekindle the flames that once guided our great leaders, an inner flame that tells of our innate knowledge of The Circle of Law. This inner fire is the birthplace of our outrage, and our sadness – it is the place where we remember how nature has taught us to govern our people, and our lives.

Sadness and pain are wise messengers. They bring us truths, that however painful have the power to set us free. Pain does not tell us what our future will be, pain simply tells us of the lessons of our past. Where people are still willing to listen, and to welcome these messengers as the great gifts they are, each one of us has the power to send back a message of hope and of courage into the world.

What would that message look like from you?

Are you brave? Have you freedom of thought? Have you the determination to step forward and be proud of your life? Lighting the Children’s Fire in your own sphere of influence is an immensely courageous thing. Can you honestly look at your own life and carry the responsibility of protecting our world, for seven generations to come?

“You wield power. Honour that which is sacred in nature in everything that you do.”

Mac Macartney