A different perspective on Brook Farm from our wonderful workawayer Amanda. Way over qualified for the work but apparently strangely happy …..
A different perspective on Brook Farm from our wonderful workawayer Amanda. Way over qualified for the work but apparently strangely happy …..
I’m learning to love autumn. So long as it is dry enough there is so much to enjoy still in the garden and woods and meadows here. The colour change is coming slowly this year though as usual the Liquidamber at the end of the wiggly beds is showing off and ‘Being The Best at Autumn’. I am laminating some of her leaves – I don’t know how I’ll use them, but I just have the urge to preserve the beauty.
There was a lot of preserving going on here while we were in Scotland. My friend Jacqui turns our soft fruit into jam for us and our new housesitter Katrina who has been a forager for years (it’s the thing now to be a forager I think, but she’s been doing it for ever) was very excited about the amount of food growing here and set about making all sorts of chutneys preserves jellies and jams. Happily she has left some for us so we get the fruits of our forest so to speak without having to do the tricky bit. But she has also left me feeling that I’m not really making the most of this plot. I’ve been all about making a beautiful, peaceful and healing place to be and not so much about feeding.
Of course there is so much healing and good about eating food from your own soil – it can’t be fresher and more full of goodness than that. So my new love for autumn is also a new love for home grown food and instead of groaning every time Willy brings in another twentysix beetroots, I think “What lovely little balls of goodness – how shall I cook them this time?” (OK I try to think that) Even better though Willy has started cooking them too – he’s in the kitchen right now preparing something ‘unique’ with beetroot which we will have alongside our homegrown curly kale and some mushroom tart.
Outside, by the way, we appear to have a parliament of owls (Yes I did look that up) They are really quite chatty but sound so very much friendlier than the noise that comes out of Westminster. Which is nice.
Ros wrote this in response to a challenge to her monthly column in a local magazine. Like me, Ros has no children…..
Our Environment: Why Should I Care?
I would like to say that the information I obtain for my articles is from reading numerous reports which are mostly from the EU and USA also some from other countries around the world. I also try to be sure these reports are from recognised researchers and specialists as well as from those for whom the subject matter may have touched personally both ‘for’ and ‘against’ any particular subject.
I am not an expert but I am very interested in world affairs and all things environmental however I am NOT a ‘bunny hugger’, I am also interested in politics but do not give my allegiance to any political party.
I have an agricultural background, being brought up in a farming family, now I am a horticulturalist though through the years I have worked in numerous fields (no pun intended), in both the paid and voluntary sector. I have also had close ties to the armed forces and been personally touched by the horrors of war and chemical use.
I have travelled quite extensively and seen for myself how great a detrimental effect that our excessive consumerism and throw-away attitude has on communities and wildlife and their habitats across the globe.
I like to meet and talk to the people of the countries I visit, and I am in touch via the internet with many people around the world in agriculture and horticulture who use both organic and ‘conventional’ methods.
I will not guarantee to getting everything correct but endeavour to try my hardest to give the facts and do not knowingly write anything which is not true.
At a young age I was environmentally aware and very concerned about the serious degradation man has on the Earth. The environment is not something we just look at in our free time but we are a part of it and anything we do that affects the planet affects us in return. We cannot just change the planet for a new one when this one becomes past it’s sell by date, there will not be another passing planet we can hop onto. Everything we do is interconnected, everything we use or throw away just because we ‘want’ the latest model, everything we waste all comes initially from natural resources. Even man made things originate from the earth, they do not appear as if by magic on the shop shelf nor will they always be there whenever we ‘want’ them. I feel that society as a whole has lost the distinction between ‘need’ and ‘want’.
The earth’s resources are not infinite and the human race is depleting them at an alarming rate. I am not being alarmist, if I were to class myself as anything it is as a realist, I realistically know that money, power and materialism, as well as over population is the cause of most of the worlds problems. I write about the environment to try to raise awareness of some of these problems.
I have no children so there will be no grandchildren or great grandchildren coming after me who will have to suffer the results of our excesses. So why do I care? I don’t know but I do.
The Garden Opens & You Can Have a Lie Down
Anyone that knows me will know my favourite pastimes are gardening and having a nice little lie down. How absolutely right then that The Sound Sanctuary has opened in the old hopkiln in the heart of the garden. Roise (pronounced roe-sha) is a lovely gentle Sound Therapist from Australia. She has created the most beautiful and welcoming space next to our mini tearoom and performs the most magically relaxing sound therapy over and around clients bodies leaving them in a state of utter peace and harmony and, frankly, pretty much good for nothing for the next couple of hours so I won’t be indulging too much this summer or else my TripAdvisor reviews could take a turn for the worse. Sound Therapy is new to me but is apparently The Latest Thing and was described at Glastonbury as Massage by Sound. How can we resist?
Roise is very happy to have found this place and her current clients say Brook Farm and our garden is the perfect place for her to have her sanctuary. It is peaceful and full of the sounds of nature and Roise says she may even do consultations outside with the brook babbling by and the sound of the birds. (I’ll just have to make sure hubby doesn’t fire up the chainsaw on those days.)
I have taken the plunge, with husband William’s consent, and advertised the garden under the name The Heartfelt Garden. Some of you will know this is the name of the little book wot I wrote and I did hesitate as it is such a personal open-hearted book. However, I really want to attract people new to gardens and gardening here, to share with them what we have created and hopefully encourage them to have a go themselves. I think the name and my actually very groovy leaflet *buffs nails* might appeal to a new sort of garden visitor.
I have this urge to share – not in a saintly altruistic sense (we’ll be charging a whole three pounds each) It’s more a “if we can do it, you can do it” sort of thing, but also a “you can feel what I feel” sort of thing too. In a frantic world we’re all looking for something – sometimes anything – that makes sense of it all. Many new and old spiritual ,mystical, new age principles and beliefs allow people to find some sort of bliss and I think it is actually bliss that we gardeners feel (as well as the cold and the thorns and the backache). I think spiritual bliss is right here outside in our gardens.
Someone do stop me if I become too evangelical about it but it seems to me if the world were full of gardeners it would be a happier and nicer place to be. I’m opening my Heartfelt Garden in the hope that it goes forth and multiplies and spreads a bit of bliss. There are worse things you could aim to do with your life I suppose.
It’s open Saturdays Sundays and Mondays through the summer and you can come to The Sound Sanctuary pretty much any time with an appointment. Roise is on 07511 621856. She’s very gentle – don’t shout J
O and of course there are some rooms and cottages here if you don’t live down the road. (Got to pay for the garden somehow)
Image from my side of the leaflet up top, Roise’s side here…
I thought my holiday timing would mean arriving home just as spring was springing…..Here we are April 11th and still no spring. Hmmm. Not to worry it’ll be here this weekend apparently and good job too as this lack of green is very dispiriting. Although not quite as depressing as the sight of more snow. I’ve never known so much snow – not the actual amounts but the frequency of flurries.
Normally getting the garden ready for spring is like running for a train – I just about make it in time and flop into my seat and soak up the gorgeousness as it all sets off on its summer journey. This year, the train was delayed and I’ve had time to sweep the platform, polish the rails and have a long conversation with the station master. The garden is so ready to go it actually looks like a proper ‘open to the public’ sort of garden. (This will never happen again.)
In the meantime in this cold long winter I leap on beauty where I find it – artworks by a friend, immersing myself in music, reading stunningly written books and enjoying clever design. Art, music, literature. Have I finally grown up or has the lack of spring forced me to focus on other things? Maybe this is a new sort of happiness? For years I believed in true and pure happiness, but it doesn’t exist does it? Or at least it ceases to exist the older you get. You can’t reach middle age without having experienced or at least noticed pain, suffering, injustice and loss. These things make me unhappy – whether they are my losses, my pain, or the suffering of others. How do we live with it all? We do what we can perhaps through action groups and charities and tea and sympathy and maybe, hopefully, as a race we humans are becoming ‘better’. But in the meantime beauty in its various forms is our solace and spring, when it comes with its sunlight and colour it is always a mood booster.
Our garden is now in its tenth year. Shrubs that I couldn’t imagine being more than a few weedy twigs are now gregariously filling more space than I had allowed, the tree peonies may well take over the whole garden and I am giving away plants like people gave me plants at the beginning when I couldn’t believe I would ever be able to spare such precious space-fillers. This year more than ever I can’t wait to see how the garden looks in its summer clothes. But this year more than ever I am having to wait, so my ABC of music (Albinoni, Bach, Correlli) accompany me while I read or write or make some little gift for my guests to take home. Beauty gets me through. I try not to listen to the news.
And if the arts and crafts fail to cheer and the skies stay cold and grey we can always turn to humour - to laugh at it all – the insanity of life and human behaviour - and thank goodness as a race the British are particularly good at humour.
So here I am, just turned 48, focussing on beauty and humour and I will leave you with my favourite joke of the winter …What did one snowman say to the other? ……”Can you smell carrots?” And that is absolutely the last I will hear about snow this year.
While in Dahab we, well I, make a decision to take a camel ride to Ras Ab Galoum, a Bedouin camp along the coast from where we are staying. Camels turn out to not be as uncomfortable as I had imagined, (though a couple of hours is more than enough) and I am really impressed with the way they can negotiate the rocky outcrops along the shoreline. They just keep on plodding on with their massive padded plate sized feet over rocks I could barely see a path through. When we arrive at the camp we are the only three there. Our guide disappears and lunch arrives from nowhere and is delicious – fried fish with rice. On the way back my nephew’s camel decides he’s had enough and takes off at an alarming pace. I am stuck on top of a less energetic animal and can do nothing. I yell at Willy who is a little way ahead of me looking at the rock pools, to “DO something” but he just turns to me and says “Huh? What? What?” totally oblivious to what is happening. Being in loco parentis turns out not for the last time to be nerve fraying, but it all ends well when the camel stops on reaching another group further along the way.
Climbing Mount Sinai a few days later we are offered camels to take the strain off the 4km hike up the mountain. “No thank you” say the three of us in absolute certain unison, each nursing our own individual sores. What a climb though! Doing it alone I can imagine could be a very spiritual experience and I half wished I was doing that, but we had such a lovely group of fellow climbers that I was happy to walk and chat for the three hours it took to reach the top. This is the mountain where God handed Moses the ten commandments and is the highest in Egypt. At the bottom is Saint Catherine’s, the oldest monastery in the world and an incredibly welcome site on the journey back down when the temperature dropped so much that we were hugging each other for warmth and even a camel would have been welcome if he was prepared to cuddle.
Back to every day life in Dahab and we venture a short way along the beach to ‘Happy Village’ where apparently the snorkelling is good. New friends Barry and Tracey come along and we flop down onto the cushions in the beach side café for a spot of lunch before our swim.
I order vegetable rice and so does Barry. When it arrives we discuss what the vegetable might be and agree it must be carrot lying on top of a huge pile of rice lying next to a huge pile of chips. We taste it and find that it is coloured potato. So rice topped with potato and chips on the side. My carb free diet is now firmly postponed til we return to England.
As everyone squeezes and pulls themselves into their wet suits (what a palaver) our host comes to clear the plates away with his lovely big smile. He looks for a compliment and I oblige. “That was lovely – thank you so much” and it was lovely because we are sitting on well used mismatched cushions on a concrete floor covered in assortged rugs, under a bamboo roof on a sheltered Sinai beach, with friends we have just made and sweet sweet Egyptian tea with camels strolling past, the sun shining and the sea sparkling. It is very lovely indeed.
Ah the sea, the sea. I have agreed nine days in to our holiday to go out with everyone else to gaze through a plastic mask at the many and beautiful fish. Up ‘til now I have been perfectly happy to stroll along the shoreline while the others are immersed in the blue and I have met many happy little creatures scuttling, crawling, flitting around the rocks and dead coral. I am so taken by their separate universe and their tiny lives that I resolve not to eat seafood any more. Previously I’ve been sanguine about consuming prawns and the like as I argued, they, having such small brains and therefore awareness, barely know they’re alive anyway. This has been an excellent excuse for eating prawns, whitebait, clams, mussels - basically all the things I like to eat anyway. No more. It seems to me as I watch them that yanking them out of their universe and eating them is doubly selfish and that eating chicken might in fact be a better option. I am slightly annoyed with myself for reaching this conclusion.
Anyhow, I have agreed to join the others in the sea – or at least on the sea and am the only woman in Sinai to be found on a bright blue lilo. I am very aware I am uncool, but at 47 coolness is well on the way out of the question and self-preservation and keeping water out of my ears is way more important. Though it must be said that scuba divers don’t rate much in the cool stakes either – they look as ridiculous as men in jodphurs to me - and more frightening, immerging like black Cybermen out of the shallows where I am quietly paddling. Still whatever floats your boat I suppose. I last roughly twelve minutes in the water and declare “Well that’s all jolly lovely, can I go back now?” Apparently it‘s not that easy. I thought I could just head for the shore but I have to be tugged inelegantly, lilo sagging, back several hundred yards along the reef to a gap where I won’t do any damage to the coral while heaving my bulk to the beach. As I said, what a palaver.
Safely beached I return to my book and my daydreaming and my daydreams turn to my garden. I make the mistake of thinking England might at least be as sunny if not as warm as Egypt when I return and I am filled with excitement at the coming season in our garden. I have some ideas and I scribble them down on the back of a boarding pass and then I fall asleep in the sun in Egypt thinking of my nice little place in the country in England and I feel very lucky.
I totally LOVE the Middle Eastern dispensation with chairs. Shack after tearoom after beach bar after café simply scatters big comfy cushions on the floor – perhaps leaning up against short concrete divisions – divisions that hold at least twelve people for a gregarious lunch on locally caught fish and rice (lots of rice), or for a gentle afternoon spent with people you’ve just met sipping Egyptian tea- which, after only two days in the area, you pour sugar in from the bowl like a native rather than spooning a carefully measured “Just a half for me” teaspoon.
Lazing around on these cushions with tea and a book is turning out to be my favourite holiday pastime. While the others push themselves into their wetsuits and head off for the coral my mind flits between the Egyptian sun-baked shore where I am anchored and South Africa, Norfolk, France – wherever my literary companions are taking me. Is there any better way to spend a day? I am full of ideas of making the same sort of colourful den at home for guests to lounge around in during their stays. Of course the Egyptians have the advantage of the ground being mostly dry, which cannot in truth be said about Brook Farm, but I am considering a raised decking area outside the old 1950s caravan which will give me a fabulous cushion buying opportunity. Months of rain will not put me off the cushion buying.
The restaurants in Dahab, perched on jetties sticking out over the gentle waves raise you slightly off the ground with huge chunky wide benches – the sort I would pay over £300 for in a shabby chic secondhand shop in England but which here must be two a penny given all the restaurants have them in great numbers. Bright coloured drifts of fabric drape the make shift ceilings and wrap around the supporting poles. A massive variety of pretty lanterns hang with red, green, blue and orange bulb, hubba bubba pipes adorn the tables of the ageing hippies stranded here since the 70s and the young twenty-somethings trying to recreate the vibe. At another table a group of young British girls, presumably blissfully unaware (or uncaring) of the Muslim preference, have dressed in tiny shorts and tight revealing tops and are giggling and flirting with the good looking waiters.
Near the pool at the Dahab Paradise is a large Bedouin tent for lounging. In front of the tent a very successful ground covering succulent sprinkles little pink flowers across its front and attracts more butterflies than I saw in our English garden all last summer. (There is more than one sort of Painted Lady attracted to Egypt at this time of year.) Dragonflies flit over the swimming pool and we wonder how on earth they came to survive here – surely dragonflies need freshwater? We ponder lazily about this as we sunbathe attempting to google the answer, but the connection was too poor so we promise ourselves to look it up when we get home. I still haven’t. Procrastination has always been one my strongest attributes but the Egyptians are world leaders. Absolutely nothing is done in a hurry, perhaps it is the only way to cope with the heat. Maybe we rush around like mad things in Britain simply as a way of keeping warm.
It’s a pity then that they expect so much of their animals – though worshipped as Gods in ancient history, animals here today have a tough life. I knew that the hardest part of this trip for me was going to be seeing abuse of horses and donkeys and I travelled armed with a list of contact numbers and addresses for the Brooke Hospital (www.brooke.org.uk) so that in the event I could actually contact someone who would do something. How relieved I was then to find that most of the animals I saw were in reasonably good nick. Just as pleasing was the very prominent presence of the Brooke in Luxor in the form of long rows of palm leaf shelters providing shade and posters around the town and even at the airport. The Brooke welcomes visitors so we went to visit the office and hospital seeing a horse who had been in an accident with some scaffolding that morning nicely stitched up and resting in a cool box. Two other horses and three donkeys were also being cared for there and we were told that the vets go out to other towns and villages every month. They offer a totally free veterinary and education service. What worries me now is the effect the huge reduction in number of tourists is going to have on these animals. If their owners aren’t getting paid to drive tourists around town, how are they going to afford to feed them?
I leave you for now with this worry in the hope you will visit the Brooke website and send support!!
End of Part Two…