Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

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:

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!

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.

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