Morning Stream of Consciousness

April 12, 2012

It’s 8 am and the house is quiet. I have come to sit in the conservatory where it is still cool.  A pigeon, sleek and streamlined passes high over the field, swift on the morning air. The sky is festooned with billowy clouds and there’s the hint of showers, yet the sun ascends with some grandeur above the hill to the east drenching the landscape’s young greenness with new light.

“Oh to be free to fly!”

At this moment I am free. Though not to fly, to abide in this dynamic moment’s peace!  At eye level, atop a bank of deep earth, is vivid April grown grass. Pre-flowering, the sward is swords of emerald. Each tip is crowned with a dew drop. Bright, silver diadems. So vital, so temporal, so holy. 

The air is mobile with birdsong.

.Everything that has breath is praising.

I discover today new seedlings have appeared. The gamble of sowing very out of date seed, captive for 5 or more years, has paid off. Did putting the seeds in compost make them live or die? Or just go through necessary changes for life to continue?

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John 12:24
English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

 

So with us. Dying or changing? the question is academic. If we don’t change we die, like seeds left unsown for too long. If we surrender to change we grow. The old has gone the new has come. New life. New purpose. This helps.

You see, a little earlier, I had gone into Catie’s room. I went in to bury my face in the empty place where she has been sleeping during the Easter holiday. I could smell her; a mingle of her perfume and, well, just Catie. I stole a little of her back for a moment and then left the room before I grew morose! It is right for her to be free to fly too. I need to accept again, (each time they leave!) the ‘death’ of the chapter where my children are at home. The leaves have vacated the seed…

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And going into the shower room, I find hanging on the hook on the wall, the necklace she made. It is of cubic beads bearing the characters; J U S T I C E ? I put it on, like an embrace? No, it fits but it feels wrong, it is so her, that while I agree with the sentiment, I am not entitled to wear something so personal to her, even though I know she wouldn’t mind. I must post it to her, but for a week I will hang it by my bedside, to remind me to pray for her.

In the shower I’m thinking of her and her hugs. They have the power to change me moment by moment: I am a bit of a do-er rather than a be-er. A hug that lingers long enough to express love and acceptance unites giver and receiver. It lets busyness and striving fall to the ground and I guess it is the language of the Father at every level so it maybe unites us with him too, with his purposes. Recently I have reflected that the work of the Father is reconciling, uniting, bringing together with himself and his purposes. The Word that sustains all things holds all things together. That is one glorious, dynamic HUG! Jesus said, in Matthew 10, verse 29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Falling dying..or changing…continuing in new life, being united…

I’m also thinking about things being loosed and bound. I am reading Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis which has raised this subject. I will pray for the loosing of justice because I think Catie is on to something about what God’s Word has to say for us today that we have not fully incorporated into our understanding of reality, life and truth. The way we western Christians live generally binds rather than looses justice on earth. More change needed. More kernels to ‘die’; old assumptions, oblivions, tough coated chestnuts!

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Church Shared Kingdom Space!

October 6, 2011

This land is God’s. How do I reflect that? How is it demonstrated and fulfilled? I have been mulling things over again and again.

Catie Eliza sent us a card depicting the joke in a photo of a sign standing in a garden “WEEDS for SALE – U-PICK!” .  I laughed and chuckled for days! Like the time my wonderful mum sent me a birthday card with a batty old behatted lady looking totally out of her tree, swamped in shoulder high weeds.

Hilarious as these pictures are and I shall keep and treasure them, they do illustrate well the battles foretold in Genesis 3, 17-19.

However there is no witness here to the restoration and redemption of the land brought in by Jesus’s reconciling work on the cross (Colossians 1;15-20), or at least not enough to impress the unbeliever and witness to that reconciliation which has already begun and I am not satisfied. I believe for more, so I must be acting with too little faith, with too little what?

What are the characteristics of Kingdom activity?

Is what I’m seeking to do dependent upon God; Father, Spirit, Son? Does it serve him, glorify him? I have so far in my walk felt that the answer is Yes to these questions. But I feel too alone in it. I am struggling to maintain the vision specifically, yet my calling to conserve creation is impossible for me to deny. It would be as easy for me to pull off my own right leg!

Conserve. It means to serve with. To serve God with creation which praises him too. His own good,  intrinsically valuable, undeniably beautiful, glorious creation. We depend upon it for our food and well-being and are responsible to God for playing our part in it’s well-being and continued regeneration as we partner him in his creative, loving likeness and image, in obedience to his command.

I struggle because many Christians think ecology is a side issue and not central to the Christian faith. How many of them regard their food, well-being, warmth, safety and that of those they love, and their children and their children’s children a side issue and is that choice to disregard creation stewardship borne out by how often they eat, buy clothes, travel, switch on their heating, go to bed in warmth and safety? There are so many people in the world who cannot take these things for granted and what of future generations, EVEN IN THE WEALTHY WEST? These descendants of ours are our neighbours in time. We have many needy neighbours in space. What about the plants and creatures of the fields and mountains that belong to God, the fish in the sea; are there still any? As long as there is still some cheap tinned tuna in the cupboard to satisfy our 3 meals a day, along with the factory farmed meat at unrealistically low prices, we can carry on…and on and on…blindly ignoring the message that something has to change. So the messenger gets weary. Wants to leave. Gives up and joins the blinkered queue in the low-ethics, who-cares? supermarket.

To serve with creation to God’s praise and glory requires help. That’s why God looked for and found a helper for Adam; eve, and that’s why Jesus has disciples. Church is community. We need unity and integration. I feel alienated by the culture I now work in.

SHAME. This is how I earn my living now, in a Christian Charity that is too side-tracked by washing mops at 90 Celsius every time the floor is mopped, (ready to be walked on immediately by outdoor shoes,) to notice the wider context of the global community; the rest of creation. We are ticking lists of chores where the sluicing of unnumbered poisons into the environment via the drains have to be shown to be done. It’s an existence  filled by busyness posturing as quality of life. We are at breakpoint stress processing proofs ordered by systemic bureaucratic distrust, approving the ‘safe use’ of poisons, out of perspective energy consumption and back covering. It takes current environmental reality denial and ignoring of the global ecological economy. It is sincerely and faithfully prayed over; would God please bless us. Would he? I wonder.

This sounds so cynical. Yet I hope there can be change. It has to be cultural. Eyes need to be opened. For that to be possible, love must persevere; relationships be honoured and protected. In the meantime I am so out of my comfort zone I can’t sleep. Yet if everyone lived my lifestyle, we would still need just over two planets to accommodate us all. I need to repent and improve things too.

Could I open our wasted land, left to itself during my exhausted post shift migraines and days of recuperation to the enthusiastic tending of others? They could care for and harvest crops, enjoy the wildlife and relax in the sun. We could have open air prayer meetings and creative times. I could follow a horticulture course and pass on the skills to interested people locally. The trust  and community involvement would take the Church to a new level of integration with each other, with God and with his creation.

But dare I? So many things I have tried in the past have not worked out. What if it didn’t work? How many people might get hurt in the attempt to give it a chance ? I can’t afford the insurance, even for the things you can insure and there’s plenty you can’t insure against; it’s risky. Yet I can’t  be me any other way and we can’t all afford to not to break out of the chrysalis of this culture of fear muffled by comfort consumption.

 

 

 

Ice-cream between performances Or: Who is that hobo in the bus stop?

May 5, 2011

apricot honey icecream mmmmmm And look no watch! (Truly time out!)

How is everything going here?

Been selling stuff that’s officially ‘Organic’ since March 2010.  Outlet is a flimsy shed bought on-line. Income is accounted for by customer honesty via a money box tray donated by my most loyal and supportive customer.

Not delivering the boxes because an average of £5 a day takings, before costs taken out, was not a lot considering the slog and investment that went in.

I was saying yesterday, in my support worker role, that my garden is not a god to be worshipped and obeyed, though I accept that in practice, that was how it seemed.

<says aside, ‘funny how disconnected-from-the-land preachers might have condemned me for that, while going for the cheapest possible groceries for their meals of fellowship! What kind of spiritual ‘leisure’ did the slaves who grew it have?’>

I am committed to an agreement to apply to be in the Organic Farming Scheme for the next year and a half. I’m due one more inspection on that count. This means that I can then qualify for European Union money, channelled via the Welsh assembly Government (WAG) Or as I dub them, War Against Gardeners which almost covers the cost of certification. If I thought that I was not ever going to become profitable enough to justify this certification before the 5 years were up, I could pull out and stop claiming and pay back all the money I’ve had so far. (Certification costs over £470 annually now.) Or I can make sure that all 6 of the decent carrots I grow and all the brassicas I’ve grown and composted and all the rhubarb that I’ve grown; about 50 plants, to keep the Treehouse supplied if they wanted it after all, are all grown according to the Organic Regulations as stipulated in European Law, and monitored by the private control body, Quality Welsh Foods Certification Ltd. This way I get approval and can complete the Organic Farming Scheme application in the SAF which all farmers have to fill in each year.

I feel like a 15 year old biding my time at school until the legal leaving age!

However, I still enjoy doing the growing and finding that a few days a week I have sold some of the produce. I am not giving up.

The many oaks I grew from acorns in the year I started the business are in new leaf. One or two casualties of the long dry springs of the past 4 years have to be accepted with a philosophical shrug. The Welsh poppy seed  Catie and I scattered in the dry soil around the newly planted saplings have, here and there, resulted in bright orange and yellow sunspots amongst the long grasses.

I have no salads in the shop today because instead of harvesting I’ve been messing around trying (in vain) to update and illustrate my other blog: http://www.jowdy.wordpress.com

I now work as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities three late afternoon / evenings a week. I sometimes managed to get in some deliveries before an afternoon shift.  But I didn’t pursue more orders.

Support work is exhausting and draining. Not because of the people we support usually; it’s the organisational hierarchy and red tape that’s paralysing. The ‘challenging behaviour’, as its nicely called can be traumatic sometimes. All credit to the current manager that we don’t get spat on, kicked and pushed around routinely as once we did. As a consequence of the job overspill into life and time off there is not the same degree of focus and drive available for the business. To a degree the ‘battlecry’ has died in my heart. That is probably why I lost my market with The Treehouse in Aberystwyth.

I was indignant for several reasons towards my employer and The Treehouse. More the latter, who didn’t warn me when I told them of the imminent readiness of various crops, that they wouldn’t be wanting them after all the risk and work had been undertaken by me!

I felt a similar sense of being slumped in a bus-stop like a half witted ‘hobo’ when the teaching didn’t work out. Again, I am wondering why I’m here with no ticket to ride!

But really, need I get work satisfaction (and I admit, parental approval) from work that pays? If the world doesn’t value what I do that possibly indicates that I’m working against the world’s values and therefore, for God’s?

I have been taught that I am a rebel, perverse and I know I am idealistic. This makes working for employers really painful for me!

Can anyone hear me out there?

The thing is I am only a rebel against what is wrong, and perverse about co-operating with ways of doing things that enforce abuses of power: Keeping the status quo for the sake of those who don’t want to have their motives or comfort zones challenged.

Being holistic in the way I think, this will be hard for me, but I need to compartmentalise my life and thinking. Work…for money only, nothing to do with my vision or ideals!

Then I can live and I’m going to try playing!

I have lots of things I love doing. I like to paint and write, sewing and gardening are also useful hobbies. When I get the rare chance, I like to cook new things. Though with cooking and sewing and making flowers-a-growing I am beginning to sound like a Bob Dylan song, worse, a woman trying in vain to please someone who never will be pleased…I am good at understanding others’ pain…for Heaven’s sake! And that is veering off playing in the sense of enjoying childhood, which is where I think I’ll head.

By the way, Owen, or any of my many readers who are colleagues, I warn you now: Just because the business has unravelled it doesn’t give you free reign to unravel me too; an inevitable consequence of making me do ‘sleep ins’!

Law and Ordure

February 13, 2010

After telling the Welsh Assembly Offices in Carmarthen 3 times that I had, if fact, shown the department my Certificate of Compliance with the Organic Farming Scheme through 2008 in March 2009 I had the payment due for that year this month.

Imagine if we paid our taxes that slowly!

The payment covers the cost of one year’s certification with about £30 over. Presumably that is to pay for the journeys, photocopies and phone calls required to fulfill all their demands. 

Imagine if  I considered these admin costs at therate the banks charge!

Yep; I am amused and jaded by the rusty wheels of the steamroller system as I get flattened by the process, the beaurocracy, the indefference to the very values the scheme is trying to support.

Nope; it will not be worth staying in the scheme.

If organic certification were to influence the fashion industry in its PR, centre page the Sunday mags would be spread with pictures of three stitches, maybe a cross section of a piece of cloth. We’d be able to tell then that the whole garment was desirable to wear, no?

Farming and food in Britain at least is in such a mess. I’m joining the food growing masses, who have a bash in their back gardens. Policy is ill conceived, scarcely administered, designed to damage small scale farmers and smallholders, ignores the issues that most environmentally aware peole can address and cannot hope to control the incidious large scale destruction of the land and biosphere that short-term economics has, for decades, rewarded the proffiteering mega farmers or driven smaller ones to desperate measures such as selling out to the supermarkets.

The cheapness and poorness of quality of foods that are churned out are a disgrace to our culture. Someone explain to me why people resent paying for environmentally responsible agriculture but will happily waste themselves on a Friday night spending maybe £50 on drinks they will later spew out all over the pavement or some poor shop owner’s doorway.  And there are not a few poor isolated individuals who have to have surgery to stop themselves exploding with obesity by having a stomach ‘staple’ or’ balloon’. Most people have absolutely no idea where and how food is grown. Quite a few have no idea of nutrition and less about food preparation. Britain is a nation of greedy supermarkets and big fat mugginses. Perhaps the root of it is low self esteem and not feeling accountable to each other.

There are hopeful signs though. It will be a while yet before we see the results but gardening to grow food and support wildlife is being added to the primary school curriculum. I have heard nothing of it but wouldn’t be surprised if there’s now an NVQ for the ‘Not Very Qualified’ streamers in secondary school and colleges in this nationally ignored subject. Lets hope that it will empower the powerless of the future and, (this is a fantastical notion) pull the rug out from under the feet of the supermarkets.

OK so why is Judith the ‘floaty gardener’, with floral blouse flapping in the summery breeze ranting so bitterly all of a sudden about the British relationship with food?

I should try to analyse this! I still love the sunny-floaty, tough-gritty spectrum of all weather working the land with no more technical assistance than an ordinary garden fork. But 1st I realise how it has alienated me. The cost of the time input alone has done that: No time for a social life at all, especially when being a member of an evangelical church effectively dictates how I spend any time commited to other people, such as the drunks late at night we try to help to demonstrate God’s unconditional love for them. I do it for that reason alone. I am no better than a drunk, but I’m a lot better inspite of myself, because I’ve got Jesus pleading for me, his righteousness standing in the place of my grubby sin. So I am not totally cut off, there are also all the other duties I have, or debts of love or whatever you may like to call them, which give me time with others. I just don’t get to hang out and chill with friends and family much. I miss that.

The experience with the official and legal side of Organic Certification has disillusioned me greatly. That is another reason for my rant.

Lack of commitment of customers for whom I may have spent months working to be able to keep my side of the bargain of supplying them just suddenly saying they don’t want produce any more; that hurt. It cost a fair amout too. It hasn’t affected my friendships with them because I know they have no idea of how much work I’d done for them. Why would growing for them be any more arduous than picking the lovely stuff off the shelves at Lidl? They have a persuasive point there. If I shut my conscience’s eyes to the food industry, the unofficial slave labour, the destruction of small businesses, the exploitation of land and animals, the long, poorly paid hours, (I have experienced long loss making hours so I’m hardly causing more hurt than I have endured there,) I could be very tempted to chuck in the tools, buy a telly and fill my non-wage earning hours consuming, satisfying my Jill Average wants. But then, when I think of an existance like that, it all seems so shallow and pointless. So I don’t chuck it in.

And that Galatians verse came to mind, and then came to me from my daughter on facebook in the same few days: Gal 6;9 We must not become tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time if we do not give up.” Of course there’s a principle I’m applying here. I don’t expect to harvest eternal life from my field, but maybe by demonstrating respect and truth in my attitude towards creation, I demonstrate Christ, who certainly does give eternal life.

Sunny Spells

November 25, 2009

This year I set higher goals in terms of output, which started with sowing a lot more seed and trying to get the message across that I was working even though I was at home! The year-round commitment to being on the farm goes without saying in farming families. I come from a family where ‘full-time’ jobs are relatively part-time. However, the odd penny might have dropped!

Weather wise, the spring was pretty good, with just about enough rain for germination for most direct sowings. Carrots were reluctant, as ever, and boy, do they need regular weeding; the hours it must have taken per kilo of carrots harvested!

The tax office sent me a new cd rom for the PAYE returns, nicely timed to need sorting out in mid May, which is also when I’m usually asked to do a few hours of street tramping for Christian Aid…It is also when my daughters have their birthdays, and that is my chosen priority. I went to the doctor’s for help as the cd rom gave our computer a coronary and the HMRC help line was unapologetically useless, stubbornly determined to clobber me with penalties or what? I wonder if I really convinced the doctor that I found the endless battle to comply with the law and do the returns despite an unyielding HMRC brick wall so stressful that I was going under, mentally and would be able to cope better if I had anti-depressants, but he humoured me. Thank God. The cd rom never did work on the dinosaur that is our computer, and I’ve got to do all the tax and NI longhand. time-wasting but less stressful! Oh, but now it is obligatory to do online file returns. Does that mean it is illegal to employ someone if you have an inadequate computer?

We had a long spate of people staying through the summer. In June Tiphaine came to do voluntary work on the holding in return for the experience and practice with her English. She was a powerhouse and very enthusiastic; such good company. She got on well with all the family, and made the most of every opportunity to learn. The dream WWOOFer! (Working Weekends On Organic Farms).

Next up, was a new graduate of Aberystwyth University who had commitments on Christian Youth and Childrens’ work holiday activities. needing a place to stay, he came and helped out with preparing a camping area for later summer arrivals: I was expecting Sarah, Lucy and Matthew who wanted to camp.  There’s plenty of space for all the clans; Raikes, Buckland, Emery, Forde, Grime, Morgan, etc to come at once to camp…wouldn’t that be fantastic!? The entire holding is on a slope though, so  gravity would roll the inhabitants of every tent into a heap on top of each other at the lowest point! So Joe T Shuster set to in the heat of July to prepare a camp site for anticipated family size tents. He also turned his hands, when July turned wet, to the hurried harvesting of onions, which I barrowed until sunset into the barn to dry out. Sadly, it turned so wet and humid that most of them didn’t so much dry out as rot down!  We had a drizzly BBQ with some of his friends, drew on the kitchen floor and went to see Nant y Moch…I felt this was essential as he’d spent 3 years in Aberystwyth and never been! Joe was, between onion and camp site and chicken installing duties, trying to send out job applications. One particular website lost his entire application several times. The frustration was huge. (HUGE) However, labours at the coal face of job hunting were rewarded with a plum internship, where I’m sure he doesn’t miss the peasant life and isolation of Brynawel!

Sarah’s visit with the children at the end of the summer holidays concluded the camp site preparation work. Sarah did the most humbling, monumental amount of work. Meanwhile I seemed to be experiencing a period of genuine exhaustion. I could have gone down to the tennis courts with the children a couple of afternoons but spent at least one of those asleep on the sofa. Stamina was just all out. I hoped they felt they’d had a holiday, having come so far and then, with small children, there’s not much time for relaxing. Sarah will always be my ‘big sister’ even though she’s elfin in stature! We just never levelled enough ground for the tent so Sarah finished the job and perched their tent all the way up the track to a small almost level patch in front of the barn. It was such a squeeze she had to tie the guy ropes to the chicken run mesh! Apparently they went to sleep imitating the unhurried ponderings of chickens. Free range hens always sound as though hen life causes them low-level disapprobation…’tooook toook tut tut, ooh, I’m not sure about thaaat!’  Goodness only knows what it causes the battery ones!

Wet summer panned out to a calm and dry early autumn and the ‘autumn bliss’ raspberry harvest was excellent. Made up for blighty tomatoes! I had lost about 50% of my customers during the summer, so the total failure and slug demolition of the beans and the unpopularity of turnips, mooli, beetroot and the mouldiness of the onions was just a loss of labour, seed, and compost. I didn’t have to go to the wholesalers to supplement supplies for the boxes. Why had my customers dropped out? perhaps the insides of some of the squash were brown or they found slugs in the lettuce, I can only guess. One in particular highlights the nutritional insecurity of people in institutions. If we’re supposed to eat 9 portions of fruit or vegetables a day, what does it say that the order I had from a home for people with learning disabilities, where staff eat with the 6 or so residents, couldn’t get through a box designed to meet healthy requirements of a couple? That was their reason for cancelling. I also think a lot of people have lost touch with what to do with real food. They can cope with broccoli, carrots and frozen peas, but what are these other things? Supermarkets want to supply, not broaden horizons, educate or take risks.

The successional sowings went better except for the lettuce, which really couldn’t get past the slugs after July. I used £160 worth of nematode treatment which reduced slug damage to and extent, but it would cost £thousands to keep conditions slug free. Lettuces are never going to return that much investment! So I had and still have a lot of food in the field but had to stop the box deliveries in mid October. My daughter was seriously ill and I spent much of the latter half of the month in the hospital. Glad to say, thanks to the expertise of the doctors and nurses and many, many answered and urgent prayers from far and wide, she’s well, again but I have in the meantime been accepted in a part-time job. I will try to save enough to invest in oil dependent technologies so I can make the food production sustainable economically: The Irony! Yes, to this extent I’m a hypocrite!

The year with a precipitous learning curve!

November 24, 2009

How does 2008 stand in the rainfall leagues? What struggled through the drought in the spring had to grow good roots and cellulose to withstand the gales of June, then it was rained into sludge and glue and what regained a grip after near drowning was a 5 course banquet for slugs the size of pythons.

Have a butcher’s at this! http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/anomalygraphs/2008/2008_Rainfall_Anomaly_1971-2000.gif

Well got that off my chest! It was not a total disaster though because some people still had veg boxes despite the stuff not looking all polished and shiny like on the Rachel’s and the Sainsbury’s ads! Unfortunately most of what I grew was unsalable for the above reasons so the boxes were supplemented with wholesaler’s Organic veg. This eroded any profit I might have made, but the freezer was filled to bursting.

It was a good initiation for the following year. I wrote quarterly newsletters to my customers; how earnest I was. I cribbed and relayed recipes; tested and changed one or two since they were actually nonsense in their original form. I had ideas that people would buy into the whole environmental stewardship aspect of food production, but unsustainably, I think, most customers were friends doing me a favour.

The best memories I have of that year were fledged in the rare but exquisite sunny mornings. There was a sense of privilege and wonder to be doing my daily work in this way. No matter how economically unsustainable and painstaking my methods, the peace and glory in blue and gold is unforgettable treasure.

The irony is that the relatively cheap price of food is totally dependent on unsustainable oil dependent technologies. It seems that everybody wants to keep their head in the sand for a while longer.

Starting Again from the Bottom of the Mountain

September 22, 2009

During my sick and deluded years as a Wannabe Welsh Woman I had competed in a choir and it had been enjoyable for us all, at the National Eisteddfodau. We had even won in the Wannabe categories!

After the whole ‘being found in the river’ experience I had a couple of pieces of poetry accepted by a postgrad. group of students compiling an anthology. This is the one I wrote in the agonies of rejection after failing to get a teaching post. It is playing with the idea of the Eisteddfod prize ‘The Throne’, or ‘Yr Orsedd’ and the name of a starkly, viciously beautiful mountain not far from here, called Cadair Idris, meaning Idris’s Chair. The beauty of the Welsh language is captivating, and I love the sound and seductive rhythms of  ‘cynghanedd’ but just as I fell inexorably out of reach of any teaching post, so can a climber find Cadair Idris a fair weather friend, to his peril! Yet will he climb!

Gorsedd Idris

Let my bastard blood

seep between your noble stones

and my shattered bones mingle

as quiet clay with shingle

free my spirit at dawn

in the manifold songs of birds

and eternity’s secret silence

quell all my wasted words.

 

There, that wannabe person, was buried or at least had a sort of funeral! The poor, stripped down kernel and spirit of me was all that stooped, unpacking a dream in the Welsh wind on a sunburnt hillside. As before, when all seems to have gone ahead and left you wondering where to start on a new course there is a lightheaded feeling and a distinct lack of luggage! My inventory read:

Nothing to lose but

2 fields, badly fenced, parched and overgrazed and I later discovered, registering zero in two vital plant nutrients. These mostly let to:

a fiery tempered and impulsive grazier.

Also:

a garden with a large shed, compost bins and two small greenhouses

a wheelbarrow

a fork, spade, trowel, rake etc

a marge tub of assorted seeds in questionable states of viability.

Also several fruit trees and bushes, mostly lost under waist and head high weeds.

I needed to stake my claim and ordered some fencing materials. When they came I had to carry all the posts one and then two at a time on my shoulders out to the field. That took over a day. I fenced off a section of one of the fields. I dug a hole for each fence post and so progressed at a rate of about 5 posts per day. After about a week all the posts were in place and Rod came and helped with the task of putting the fence wire on, which has to be tensioned. That was something I couldn’t have done alone, and which required a special pulley. It was perhaps a year later, during a visit by my parents, that my father and Rod made a style half way along the fence so that we could easily access the higher part of the field on foot. I taught Tamsin to jump it for tennis ball retrieving purposes.

The fence completed, further winter jobs included tree planting in the new part of the field now known as ‘The Orchard Field’. Rabbits subsequently came and ate a lot of those little trees, which was a shame as my mother brought them and helped me plant them. However, I ordered some rabbit protectors and planted some more from a little nursery of trees that I’d planted when we first moved here, and which had for some inexplicable but fortuitous reason not been rabbit ravaged. The resulting little spinney in what I endearingly call my conservation and woodland margin area is still linked inseperably with the happy memeory of tree planting with my mother. My younger sister gave me a pond lining and I later added a tiny pond to this area in the hope that it would be attractive to frogs and maybe even newts but so far, they have not discovered or occupied it. Last year I heard there has been a terrible disease which depleted frog populations around Britain, and that the movement of frogspawn was one of the causes of the spread. I was glad I had not contributed to this disaster, though that was more due to lack of gumption and frogspawn than good management!

Another arduous task which took up more time than a mere winter and which is always ongoing, was to clear the grass and weeds which had a stranglehold on the fruit garden. That is all I can say on that, other than that I didn’t use weedkiller for obvious reasons and it took much time and perseverance. Rod took to some riotous rhododendron with the chainsaw and I poured stump weedkiller around the battleground. We didn’t realise at the time that this toxic plant is also toxic in its gaseous form and so had bonfires of it. We live to tell the tale, perhaps not for as long as we might otherwise have done, though! Despite all these measures, the pernicious triphid is making a comeback and there’s nothing I can do other than keep cutting it back and mulching as I am now officially Organic in tooth and law, thus the stump killer is out of bounds!

In the depths of winter 2006 I submitted drawings, plans, including a business plan and an application to the Ceredigion Planning Authority for a 48 foot polytunnel. There followed pleasant telephone conversations, further letters, visits from planning staff who took photographs, further slightly more testy telephone calls, emails, outraged petitions and more visits. I reasoned, pleaded and gradually watched my plans for the business’s first summer get blight and wither and generally become aphidised beyond productive posibiliies. Their line was, it seems, “You can’t go ahead without our say so and we can’t go ahead because we are either off sick, on holiday or overloaded with backlog.” I was sidestepping frustration and preparing for a wedding. I let wedding plans occupy my mind and sewing dresses for eight bridesmaids occupy my useless hands.

The polytunnel planning permission was finally granted in June. Before the tunnel could be erected, we needed to make a level space for it. We called in the man with the digger, who by then had a lot of summer work and he couldn’t come for 6 more weeks. I worked on the veil. Rod built a temporary shelter for all the young wedding flower plants, tomatoes and aubergines. I bought bags of compost, pots and poles to meet their growing needs.  The wedding was called off. The weather turned wet as June turned to July.  One rare sunny day true friends and family came to help put up the polytunnel. Apart from an idle but mischievous breeze, the conditions were ideal. A lot of exess topsoil which had been mounded up during the levelling process occupied half the capacity of the polytunnel and had to be dug back outside. The volunteers set to with generous willing and worked furiously through the swealtering day to a cider swilling evening. At last I could ‘move in’!

I washed the aphids off each aubergine plant, leaf by leaf, and planted them in the new polytunnel beds. They were mulched with well rotted manure which Ian and I barrowed up the hill and then ripped white card, to reflect light to their hitherto light starved leaves. The plants grew amazingly and looked beautiful and sturdy. Their pale purple flowers burst forth and then, like bare-bottomed toddlers, wearing skirts but who’ve forgotten their knickers, the aubergine fruits began to appear beneath the petals’ frills! I had about 60 aubergine plants.

It was about that time that I sat in the polytunnel reading John Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, to take my mind off my grief over the broken engagement, the pain, and my incomprehension of how things had suddenly gone so wrong. I remember drinking gin in the afternoon and writing terrible bitter things in my diary. I had sleepless nights and tried to relax in the warm, private womb of the polytunnel, but I had damaged the atmosphere with my rage and grief and attempts to cat nap failed. So did the aubergines. In their ones, twos and eventually dozens they rotted at the ‘toddler’s bottom’ stage and fell onto the mocking, curling card mulch. The blight on the tomatoes which had set in before I planted them into the polytunnel ruined that harvest too, and presumably polluted the beds for future ‘solenaceae’ crops. I resented the unapologetic, uncaring planning authority. I filled the house with large bunches of would have been wedding flowers and enjoyed the endless supply of sweet till you’re drunk on them sweet peas’ scent. I wanted to bring some cheer to my hurting daughters too. We regrouped as a family, if not as a business!

flowers

Hitting the ground running

September 22, 2009

Ready? So here’s a brief paraphrase of the story so far in fast forward.

I got married at age 22 going on 12 and my parents knew it…all of that! But God sorted it all out over the years. Isn’t he so Gracious!

The refining was furious while I worked in my first couple of jobs. Several lessons in life; humiliations and discoveries how fallen and broken the world is made me lonely for soul satisfying beauty and purity though we lived on a beautiful coastline and if we looked inland, it was towards a stunning national park. Pregnant, I was chucked out of my second job, and I felt betrayed…I was a slow learner! 😦

Little did I know at the time how, as I sat all night just weeping and sleepless how the beauty I longed for was going to come to pass. My true friends did; Julie and David. They had a hand in its origins.

Despite it’s meaning, Rod wouldn’t agree on the name Abigail. I wrote her name in large letters in the sand, having gone to the beach to walk and think: Ann Marie.

About a fortnight after that compromise was reached she was born. Her eyes were dark like the solway on a stormy day. The cherry blossom outside the hospital so pink and frothy in celebration. The wildflowers Rod brought from summer meadows brought beauty and prophesied freedom, yet my baby cried with hunger; we were still confined and regulated by clipboards and starvation regimes!

As Ann Marie took her first steps on the sun-dappled mossy pathway through the woods where I took her to learn to walk, our second child’s heart began to beat as she grew secretly within me.

Rod was working as a carpenter but took time out to  rennovate the house we had bought. we had moved South to be nearer our parents and had to buy a wreck in order to make that move. House prices where we moved from were much lower. It was while I held plasterboard sheets aloft for Rod to nail into place that I became inexplicably faint. We finished all the work on that house when Catherine Eliza was 11 years old.

In these years while the children grew I joined St Michael’s church, and Rod soon did too, where he was born again, I worked on the garden, my Welsh, In Coleg Ceredigion, at Plas Lluest, first as a volunteer in the plant nursery, later as a horticultural trainer, but was driven away by a vindictive boss after losing a battle for fair and decent treatment of the clients with those whom they should most have been able to trust, and as a cleaner so that I could I spend a year doing an Art foundation course. I took my GCSE maths. I was laying in place all the foundations on which I had in mind to start training to do teaching.

We moved again, while I worked at Coleg Ceredigion, to a smallholding  just North of Aberystwyth. Soon afterwards I began work as a receptionist at a surgery in Aberystwyth. I was able to do two Welsh courses while I did that job and pass an ‘A’ level and get accepted into Teacher Training College on the Welsh Medium Course.

I had been working pretty flat out by then for two or three years without any break, just work and study and domestic duties. I had forgotten how to relax and was beginning to suffer again with depression. It is so subtle at first. A few years earlier, when I’d lost sight of why I was alive, I came to a horrid realisation of my state when Catherine, then about age four had said, “Mummy, I remember when you used to smile.” It really is no good just pretending everything will be alright if you keep on going in the same direction. It was the same again this time. I’d hit a dead end and had nowhere to go but down.

The teacher training began just as I began to come out the other side. Not an easy state in which to undertake very tough new challenges, but I did it. There are a few memorable times both up and down, but all of us on the course had at least some of that initiation. There are the secure and professional type teachers who have the emotional maturity to be guiding and supportive of trainees and there are the old guard who put trainees through their paces and make them jump through hoops because they think its character forming and there are the downright amoral and immature ones who do all they can to obstruct the progress of the trainees in every aspect of their would be development! I had one of the former and one of the latter as mentors during the training year and developed a great respect for one ‘in the middle’ while I worked as a supply teacher. On the whole I felt that most heads and teachers were supportive.

I never became a fully qualified teacher because I couldn’t secure a post in any school. I nearly had one in Mydroilyn but because the local authority couldn’t process the necessary paperwork, I didn’t get paid, or a contract, and Rod could see how things were slipping and it did look as if I was being taken for a ride, driving right to the south of the county twice a week for half days of work, sometimes only to find I wasn’t wanted and had to drive all the way home again, yet I’d turned down full days of work to honour my Mydroilyn commitments.

The real turning point of resignation actually came during my training year: God was gracious to bring things into focus the way he did and when he did. Gracious to me, that is. I hope that the head teacher who had to deal with the situation will see things that way when we all give an account! This was the way I let go of the dream:

I had worked for hours the night before on preparing for a science lesson on food chains. I had all the other lessons planned and written up as you have to but my piece de resistance for the day was to be the role play/food chain lesson. I hoped that it would earn me good marks in the assessment which the head would make for the college. It was most irrational of me, but when he took out an assessment form at the beginning of a maths lesson that fateful day I felt my heart sink into my boots and in a moment of weakness I didn’t bother to crank it back up to my chest again as I had learnt to do on so many other occasions as a trainee teacher in the petri dish! I went through the lesson somewhere below satisfactory, by my own reckoning and I remember nothing more about it. At the end of the lesson the head gave his verbal feedback It was fair and done without bias or malice.

I took the marking out to the car as it was lunch break, so I could cry without being observed and play a track on a Delirious CD. ‘Find me in the River’ Which I also had used for an RE lesson. I felt sure it would revive me ready for the afternoon’s lessons and yet all that happened was I found myself crying all the more and genuinely in some distress. I played the song again and again and still the tears fell unabated. I was face to face with God in that river. “OK”, I prayed.” I know what this is about.” I had had it in my heart all those years that with or without God’s blessing, I was going to be a teacher; I was going to win and do it and be someone. I had taken enough sneering and derision from people who had made it in the world’s eyes, and I was going to make it too. But here I was, moments before the end of lunch break due back in class to start my star science lesson, in floods of tears and grovelling in a heap before God. “Ok”, I prayed: “You, only You is all I need. I will let go of the teaching dream if I can have You first. I still desperately want to teach but I want You first”. It hurt to say those words because I meant them. I was stricken and broken and hopeless and I had to get out of the car and walk back into the class where the rest of key stage 2 were filing in because I had to take the whole of KS2 for Science, not just years four to six. The head saw the tears and the brokenness and took over. Humiliation but relief.

So if you don’t know God and you are reading this, don’t trifle with him. If you make him promices you better keep them! He won’t give you anything less than his best; costly and precious, and if you try to go your own way it will get very painful.

I did hold on and hope but I’d lost my grip…gradually the ropes I’d learnt slipped out of my hands until by the summer of 2006 I knew that I wouldn’t be going back to teaching, even as a supply teacher after the break. We had a family holiday in Portugal, I read ‘The Heavenly Man’ by Brother Yun. Meanwhile Britain and the rest of Europe had a monumental heat wave.

That autumn I got all my teaching resources and sorted out the burnable from the potentially useful. The size of the bonfire was gratifyingly huge. I most particularly enjoyed watching the reduction to flakes of breeze shaken carbon of the first teaching practice file. I celebrated my freedom with some bitterness and regret. Catherine cried because she of all people kneew what it had cost me. The last vestiges of my ‘worth something’ self, in the form of hefty text books and teachers’ resource books I exchanged for a fraction of what I paid for them at a shop that would profit enormously from selling them a second time around! Read the rest of this entry »


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