Landmatters Permaculture Project

Landmatters Permaculture Project in Devon 06/07 2012, a month of persistent rain, an occasional sun-ray and my first experience of cabin fever.

On this moment, writing my diary, the wind howls around the communal bender. Inside, I enjoy a wood-fire and a warm meal. The others here have found shelter at home, with their family, or friends, on this Thursday evening. Around me I can see some chimneys, smoking. It has been a day of continuous rain and fortunately we’re on a hill, with a view on distant Hay Tor of high Dartmoor.

I know there’s lots of flooding in England, our challenge is to maintain on track and not slip, walking on our feet or drivinb by car, going down- and uphill. On the 20th of June, I traveled by train, from Lammas in Wales, to Totnes in Devon and waited…  in the rain, chagrined from fatigue, for the bus to Allaleigh Landmatters Permaculture Project, where Sharon waited for me, with her car. Leaving the somewhat harsh conditions at Lammas, welcomed to sleep in the Yurt that is attached to the communal bender, due to the bad weather, I felt very comfortable and pleased with myself, for having “made it”.

Landmatters, my third address for volunteering, is very different from Lammas, mainly by the fact that this is an intentional community with a well established and relatively matured group of people, living and working together for 7 years.        The planning and communication in this group of 9 adults, 6 children, 1 dog, 1 cat 5 ducks about 20 chickens and 9 goats, is based on communal counseling. We pay attention to each others’ and the plants’ and animals’ well-being,  work together during 6 hours a day, enjoy communal meals every week, share the goat-milk, the chicken/duck eggs and the vegetables of the communal garden.

We’ve got a well on the land and we collect rainwater, electricity is provided by solar- and wind-energy and we bring our washing to a laundrette in Totnes. Or do it by hand, as I choose to do it, in a clear little stream nearby, as well as washingmyself at the sink every early morning, when all others are snoring. This is like going back to my childhood, the fifties.We didn’t have warm water from the tap and washed ourselves with cold water in a basin, in our rooms.

The residents live in self-built benders. What’s a bender? Quote Wikipedia: “A bender tent is a simple shelter. A bender is made using flexible branches or withies, such as those of hazel or willow. These are lodged in the ground, then bent and woven together to form a strong dome-shape. The dome is then covered using any tarpaulin available. These tents can be heated during the winter using a wood-burning stove, and they are easily capable of withstanding very strong winds so long as the covers are well weighed down”.

 The dog, called Beltane, is a puppy terrier rat-catcher and a cuddly companion when sleeping on our laps.  Weekly meetings and days of counseling are rule, animals excluded, also in our diet here. Some benders, with a multitude of layers and space between them, have rats as “domestic animals”. When a family with small children lives for years in a bender, leaving food in the kitchen or remains of food on the floor, rats will be attracted and mice. Living in nature means living with insects and rodents and sometimes, rats too! These are the clean small size rats, not the rats which live in the water. I’ve visited a family in a large bender once and all the time we heard the rats moving in the walls around us. They weren’t too much bothered by it.

Simon, a volunteer I met at Monkton Wyld Court, is here too and we’re picking up our role as Harry Potter and Hermione, again, as much annoyed by and fond of each other. I often giggled about his typical English aloofness, sitting at the table and walking around, until he told me “It’s hard for someone who’s struggling with inner conflicts, to be laughed at you know” expressing his annoyance in the same casual “aloofness”. That certainly shut me up! This volunteering life offers many opportunities for learning to know myself better and how I project certain issues on others. It’s great to be honest with each other without losing comradery in work and at the table, like with Simon.

The volunteer jobs are varied: fence making for the chickens, ducks and goats, with Simon and Robin, weeding the vegetable beds,  cleaning  the bath-house, planting the vegetable beds, cooking communal meals and baking bread, watching the kids, occasionally and organizing the “shop” for used things, in a shed. When I found a footpath in the woods, at the back of our grounds, I’ve cleared the overgrown parts with a machete. It made me feel like a jungle tribe member.

Last week, we had a “full house”  with a group of volunteers, for a “wooding week”. With wheelbarrels we carried the wood from the forest, downwards and upwards, pretty much covered in mud. We shared our meals under dripping clothes, drying on a rack beneath the roof. I’m sure we shared our sweaty  body-perfume too, which isn’t that bad, considering the fact that we’re all in those fumes together 🙂

Being in a bender, most of the day, in pouring rain with many, with a wood-fire for warmth and the smell of wet clothes, steaming, makes me want to run away, screaming. I was told this is not uncommon and it’s called “cabin fever”.                        Those pioneers in America, who built their benders in the wild, found themselves go almost mad during long periods of cold or bad weather, living alone. That’s where the term stems from. It’s one of many new experiences, traveling to rural areas, living more or less off grid.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATotnes, a former harbor village and trade market, with a wharf now used by tourists and national water-lovers, to bring their boats ashore.

Totnes town view Devon South of England  The sunset-rosy and hippie-trippie town of Totnes from the air, with the round wall of the  castle just above the center of the picture.

Everybody’s  muscles are still recovering from the work in the forest, and the residents are happy to return to (relative) quietude and “normal routine”, after completing this  week. The “wooding week” volunteers, except me and Nick, have gone home soaking wet.

Some of the volunteers had a hard time, their conditions weren’t at all suited for this job. I think that the combination of harsh weather, difficult terrain and unfamiliarity with physical hard work, 6 hours a day, for 5 days, was unforeseen, nor considered as maybe unrealistic in expectations, by Landmatters’ residents.

I wouldn’t expect, nor ask, unknown volunteers, to take up such a heavy task, without proper preparations. How to create a good workforce?  Simply inviting any volunteer at random, doesn’t work, I think. Those volunteers were disappointed, annoyed and tiresome, at times. I guess, or hope, it’s a lesson learned, for Landmatters!

Yesterday the first bee-swarm for Sharon arrived, on the Land, which is quite exciting to all parties involved, considering the fact that our busy buzzing friends have been so near to extinction.

The man who delivered the bee-swarm is a genuine beekeeper, very respectful and gentle, who’s so used to be with bees, that he handles them bare handed, without hardly being stung! We shared a wonderful conversation, drinking tea. When life is honored, including the bee-ings that are such an important part of nature’s life-cycle, regarding flowers, trees and  our vegetable food and…. subsequently animals and human beings, we will be rewarded by life a thousand times, in abundance.

The joy and value of living the way I do, at present, is that it keeps me in touch with the elements, the food, drinking water, safety of shelter by day and night, the plants and animals, the interesting personalities I meet, while living in communities.         A simplicity of life that calms down the turmoil of my mind and strengthens my body, working my muscles, while being outside most of the day, in a beautiful countryside, in silence with the elements, grounding more, while going through this change in my life, the dawning of my newfound self and making  peace with my old one, leaving imprints and beliefs that aren’t in resonance with who I am … becoming.

A new emotional balance and a first step in the realization of my dream to move to Devon England. I know I cannot return to, or continue to live a life, for the remaining part of this lifetime which I begin to enjoy and appreciate so much more on deeper levels,  closing me in by limiting rules, square rooms and people, city vibes and the madness of cars and crowds in trains or city centers.

It’s humiliating, unnatural and untrue to natural living, in wellness with planet Earth. Unless I choose for it when there’s no other option. The choice is what makes all the difference, for as I perceive it, choice is what reminds us of responsibility. Let’s face it,  the only way to feel good about living conditions is by accepting it as it is and make the best of it, finding ways to improve conditions when possible. I’ve got to be patient in creating this dream come true, for there’s still a couple of years to go, while working for an income.

Starting a working life in the UK is the equivalent of an avalanche, a quagmire of administration and a too complicated journey through rules, with much frustration due to a hierarchical system in working conditions. I’m a self employed childminder with an age that is twice the age of parents who are my employers.

In the present conditions of modern UK life, parents are NOT happy with me, knowing how to properly accompany and educate children! It’s not very different in Holland, to be clear. It’s what has made my work difficult, making me feel lonesome in my work. Gratitude? Discussing issues concerning the children’s health or emotional condition? Huh?…. no time to pay attention to it, that should be my job. I’m truly told off in that way and at that time I had no skill to respond adequately, without risking to lose my job.

The market of childminders from Russia and the Philipines was abundant, offering an alternative for me and a much cheaper one too. It’s how I lost my last official job and was forced to join the jobless workforce, entering the well-fare system, for 2 and a half years, receiving an income that made it hard to make ends meet, until my retirement. Although, working as a childminder and be paid in cash isn’t too difficult, if you get my drift.

Imagine me, living in as a Nanny. I can’t see that will work out very well. I’ve tried to find work as a living in – Nanny, in 2004, thinking that it would save me the trouble of finding a home for myself, moving to the UK.  I’ve found out that rich families with kids are often extremely arrogant and not willing to pay a proper wage. As a domestic cleaner or Nanny, you’re less than a doormat to them. Hence the many Russian and Philippine girls arriving as an “au pair” the latter very gullible and obediently working for a very low wage. Spoiled to the core, that’s what many of the younger rich generation is, on both sides of the Northsea!

Loosing face is horror to many residents in the UK and as a Dutch employee we’re used to speak our mind openly, in general. Oops, that’s a mortal sin in working relationships in the UK. I know I couldn’t bear being calm and watch the domestic scenes with toddlers in tantrums and obstinate teenagers, shouting in rude ways, demanding their parents to “shut up!”

To some of you this freewheeling and foot-lose way of thinking and looking at life, may seem strange. I suppose it’s one of   those things in life, when change is happening, that are felt on a soul-level, or so it seems to me. I strongly believe in freedom of thoughts and choices, to enhance development of thinking, feeling and physical health.  I love the Freeman Society initiative, people who reclaim their name, their sovereignty.  It’s as I begin to look at life now, that I notice a dawning of humanity’s self-rule, a growing awareness of what it is that truly matters in life, a remembering of our true role as custodians of planet Earth. 

I guess, what I try to convey here, is this, spoken by a man who was born in the year 0 AD: “Be in the world, but not of the world” There’s so much madness in our present world, due to mind-control of all sorts and abuse of power and ripping our planet apart or leave it barren.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no such thing as “better” in my words and choice of lifestyle, it’s truly about choosing what’s best for me in the present moment, in sync with the process of change I’m in.  To be in England is the best for me, I always feel that I’m home on this island.

This ancient island is calling me home, as it were. I’ve found truth and learned to accept it as truth. Therefore I can take responsibility for who I am and for my purpose in life. I cannot decide what’s best for others, or you, who read this. I know my shouts into the Universe are often loud and clear. To some it’s amusing, to others it’s felt like intimidating. I’m used to be a leader.

Back to Landmatters now. On a totally unexpected moment, pumping the water from the communal well, I spoke with a woman at Landmatters, who expressed in words, what I’m truly living now: taking part in the empowering of women, at the end of this era,  honoring  our womanhood, by being alive and present through this time of change: the rejuvenation of the feminine qualities of life (also in men). The way in which she expressed it, moved me to tears and she understood…. We were standing together, woman to woman…. looking into each other’s eyes, smiling.

21:35 pm now and it’s growing dark outside, the wind howls. I’ve been offered to stay in a home of one of the residents here, for the coming 3 days. I need to bring my sleeping bag over, from my tent in the Dome, on the camping field.         I might light the stove, sit in a comfortable armchair and disappear in my book “The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram…..  or listen to music on the radio, while rain and wind join in the tunes, feeling snug and truly at HOME. To be at HOME within is a good thing. I think confidence is served by that feeling, don’t you?

Copyright @2012 tHeARTofCARE