Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Empowerment and 2015

Well I'm sorry about the last few months of silence. It appears that the 'Ren test' was harder than I thought and getting stuff done with a new baby, 2 other sprogs and a new student settling in does impact after all.....

Well it certainly impacts this. Sitting down, reflecting, writing something legible and readable and collecting my thoughts, adventures and aspirations. Its therapy for me, it just takes time I haven't always got. Bit of a catch 22, that.

I have been doing stuff though, mainly holding the baby, changing nappies and going to bed as early as we can. Other than that fermenting, hunting and foraging to some extent have all been squeezed in since I last wrote on here, and it all feels pretty life changing.

My first kill, prep and cook of a bird makes me look at things very differently. I wasn't sure if I could do it if I'm being honest. I'm squeamish with blood and guts and never thought I'd take to hunting. Quite frankly I struggle to watch Casualty, let alone undertake basic butchery....

Pigeon sandwich with sauerkraut on the side!
It was something I wanted to do to see if I could do it, to see if it'd turn me vegetarian, whether I could cope with taking life to feed me and my family. I never had a moral issue with it. As a meat eater it seems to me that to shoot a bird out of the sky, one that was never farmed, taken to an abattoir or kept in captivity. One that quite literally didn't know what hit it, seems to me to be the kindest way to eat meat. The prep, (plucking, and cutting out the meat) was not as hard as I'd thought as there was no gutting involved. That will be another time, when rabbits and ducks are on the menu. But this was a great start for me and it tasted bloody lovely. So shotguns and Wood pigeons turn out to be something I actually enjoy. Who'd have thought?

Me and blogger Scott went on a fermentation workshop the other day. I didn't know much about it before the session, but it turned out to be pretty cool stuff. Held at the local Vegan cafe, a guy from Octopus workshops giving us the low down on the history and uses of fermentation, and as Scott mentions on his blog – it kind of got a bit political, which always goes down well with me , a spot of radical, subversive sauerkraut production! It turns out to be quick and easy too – not too much messing around with sterilising which is definitely a weakness of mine (I'm just not a clean freak). A bit of pink himalayan salt, an organic cabbage and you're away. Anyhow, the kraut I made tasted pretty good – Scott's been running with it a bit more so I'm going to get him to disseminate some of his new found wisdom when he gets a chance. It seems to be heavily linked with Eastern ideas of health and the gut, the fact that we need a good population of bacteria to operate effectively . I love this thinking. It seems to make sense, and it fits in with using food as medicine, a preventative approach vs curing symptoms. Something that links heavily into eating natural foods, herbs and spices and home grown produce. Taking it further into the territories of fermentation, preservation and herbalism will only help energy levels and health.
Foraged mushrooms - Brede High Woods

And Foraging with the local mushroom man, Geoff Dann and the chefs of Hastings and St Leonard's. Winter Chanterelles, Amethyst and Birch Boletus all gathered from local woods. Hunting for mushrooms in a wood incorporates so much. The fact that mycellium links with the roots of specific tree species, the way that brush can encourage a flush of growth or aspect can affect the fruiting. It is an enormous subject, and as with the other two activities, you've got to look at it with a lifelong learning hat on. The more we do this stuff, it seems, the more we realise we don't know.

And that's the thing, as I'm on this course of gaining life skills like foraging, hunting, or fermenting, two things become clearer to me. One is a realisation that this is truly a lifelong learning experience – that nature harbours so many intricacies and surprises it would be foolish to ever declare yourself an expert or master . The eternal student, constantly engaging with mother nature, learning to ask the right questions, learning to critically think because the subject matter is eternally vast. It becomes not about knowing every single species, but instead reading the forest floor, or treating each batch of fermenting cabbage as its own little universe, rather than running to recipes. Its a bit 'out there' but if we look at the natural world as our spiritual environment, then we perhaps can begin to have a conversation with it, and develop understanding. It sounds a bit like the 1st permaculture principle – 'Observe and interact' – funny how that one keeps popping up eh?

And then – almost perversely, once you get to grips with the fact you'll never fully master it all, this on going conversation, the other realisation becomes a sense of empowerment. I know I can, at least to some extent shoot, grow and gather my own food. I can prepare food that is good for body and mind, and because of the life skills I am building, I can begin to look after myself and my family more effectively without relying so heavily on questionable external, human created systems.
To feel disempowered can create anxiety, stress and unhappiness. I know because I have suffered for years.  This blog - the adventures I'm going on and the people who I meet as a result begin to help me make sense of the world. Its a long slog, and I'm right at the beginning of my journey but I've never been happier or more motivated. Last year was a crazy ride – thanks 2014, its really been a ball.

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