Sometimes things get stuck, and plans cease to roll. Family issues kept us from planting the sprouts, who are currently crammed in pots in our house. It is one of the moments where despair can change a setback into failure. We need focus, we need courage. Most of all, we need land.
At last, we got down to business. In Italian we say “la terra è bassa” (the ground is low) as it breaks your back to work it. Yet, even if every hoe swing I struck two rocks, even if the clay ground was packed tight, even if I’m aching everywhere, even if our future is still dark and uncertain… I feel satisfied as I rarely was in my life.
First things first: germination.
When it comes to plants, seeds and soil, I tend to be a more practical and unthinking type. I want to get stuff done, dig my hands into the dirt and then watch nature do its magic. I don’t like to spend too many words or time scheming, I like to get right into it: there will be time for words after…while waiting for my seedlings to sprout.
Aaaand here they are: peas and cabbages on the grow. 🙂
Today we attended a course on sinergistic agriculture. We felt it was necessary to see “the thing” done with the assistance of someone more expert before getting down to business on our own. The information given by our friends from Terre Colte (an association whose purpose is to lend traits of land to create vegetable patches) was mostly reassuring (like in “ok, he’s telling me the same things I read everywhere, they probably work”) but they also had a very important component of getting the “feel”, seeing how much straw, for instance, or what does the bed look like.
After a hot morning working the bare earth (some more than others, and I also risked a heat stroke), the bed was ready, but with no plants.
We then got to lunch (abundant, probably even too much, but very good) with the intent of completing the activity in the afternoon. Nature, however, didn’t seem to be satisfied with our irrigation and decided to give us a hand. A heavy, abundant hand.
At last, the weather was clement and we got back to our bed. It was so deeply drenched that in order to place the plants someone had to go barefoot (not a big issue for Strix, who loves the feeling of mud under her toes… I had my trusted military boots).
Overall a great day, loads of fun. The place is nice, and five minutes from home, so we’ll probably get in touch again with the owners (this feels so River Cottagey!!!). I also got myself a small trophy… a hog skull. How could Aper resist that?
Sometimes opportunities seem just behind the corner, sometimes you feel stuck in a mire, with no options. This first week of September is like thick mud, with no work chances, delays and uncertainties. The area for the first two beds was chosen, the irrigation system was designed but no other step forward, no new chance, no income-generating news.
Earth is the only hope. Rain the only promise of a new life.
Working for a big international company is a boon sometimes. Whenever you have doubts on your choices they waste no time in reminding you why you took them. Long term objectives and world vision are diametrically opposed. On one side, a world of busy mega cities, crowded with anonymous producer-consumers, on the other a low density world of independent communities. One is a pyramid, which you strive to climb, the other is flat and there’s nowhere to climb to.
Changes are scary. Changes are like a big blind jump to take, and you never know if and when you’ll be ready to jump.
Leaving a reasonably safe job behind to start from square 1, Cain, makes no exception.
The book on irrigation has been completed, although it’s still unclear how to consider a Crop coefficient for a sinergistic approach (it’s sad, but all traditional book and publications seem to consider only the monoculture).
In any case, I am almost ready to plan my first irrigation system, where ‘almost’ lies in having to find a couple of hours to do it.
Ah, and by the way, we still need to decide on the crops 🙂
It is a time for planning. The only thing we know for sure at the moment, is that our first experiments will consist of just two beds, to start. One of them will be a typical synergistic bed, while the second one will have the addition of rotting tree logs underneath.
Given we are so late in season at the moment, the choice is limited, but I am almost sure I want at least to try potatoes.
Today we start recording a path, but the path has not started here. It’s hard to trace back a path at all, but if I have to choose a moment in time where it all started, I would choose a coffee break, somewhere in autumn, 2008.
Some Welsh customers were discussing about a TV Show, called River Cottage. This guy who started his own farm intrigued me, and I managed to get a copy of the show and watch it here in Italy. I immediately bought his book, and started changing altogether my approach to food. I can’t say if Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall was a pioneer in what he did, but he certainly was a pioneer in my life.
That show germinated inside me. I started desiring some aromatic plants, for instance (and managed to kill quite a few, actually) until I almost gave up the idea.
Then I met Strix, my lovely wife. Our romantic evenings were a reharsal of the whole River Cottage show. We re-kindled the flame together, we started eating more consciously (as she is a much better cook than me when it comes to vegetables and fish), then the idea came back. A farm, our own vegetables, our own chickens and so on.
Since wyrd has its way of unfolding, one fateful night we discussed the topic with our tattoo artist (a very talented man, Edo Van, you can find his works on Facebook), and he told us about an old Japanese guy who invented a new way of approaching agriculture. Do Nothing.
Reading “The One Straw Revolution” from Masanobu Fukuoka was the final changing event.
I took it with me during a surprise business trip. An afternoon our CEO decided he wanted me to talk with a customer about a liquidated damages claim and he informed me he was sending me over to meet him. In Tokyo, in two days time. I had to leave office immediately, leave for Rome, sleep in Rome and take the first plane to Tokyo, only to get back by nightfall.
At 3 A.M. I was talking over the phone with my customer from a toilet seat in Rome, finding a solution that enabled me to get back home without flying all the way across the globe. In the time breaks, I was reading how another life was possible.
Now we are ready to try. To learn. To make mistakes.
Maybe we are doing everything wrong. But we need to try. We need to find a better way to live our lives.