Saturday, 21 May 2016

Foraging with Transatlantic Friends

This past week we had a class from the Warren Wilson College of Asheville, North Carolina visiting us while they investigated the intersections of community, work, and spirituality. 

After 30 hours of traveling, they landed at Camas and hit the ground running with an adventure over to Market Bay and explorations of the surrounding area to acclimate themselves to such a drastic change of scenery.

Despite most of the week being adjusted around the various rain squalls passing over the island, spirits were kept high with much singing and laughter. The go-with-the-flow attitude turned out some unexpected delights such as learning new games and in depth fireside chats. The results of all of this made for a pretty epically bonded short term community that will surely continue into the foreseeable future. 

The main event of the week was a Camas Challenge of preparing an evening meal with as much foraged food as we could muster from in and around the Camas garden. Armed with books and a hunger for a good dinner, the students from Warren Wilson rose to and met the challenge with an infectious enthusiasm. 

Starting on the shore line they started with sea vegetables and then moved up into the woodland for wild garlic, mint, and various roots and flowers, ending in the garden with more greens for salad and mini strawberries that were sure to end up as garnish on a dessert. 

With ingredients pouring into the kitchen, a team of students and staff came up with some impressive results; among them were: giant fresh salads for each table, crunchy nori, fried sea spaghetti, and a chocolate cake with mint icing and fresh strawberries on top! Yum! 

Thanks Warren Wilson for such a bountiful harvest and delightful meal!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Peacemaking with Pop


As part of the resident team, this is my fourth month participating in the Common Life at Camas Tuath.  In our kitchen- four fathoms from the salty Atlantic, fourteen breaths to the freshwater spring; forty minutes to the tarmac. We've brewed gallons & gallons of Pop aka ‘Juice’ aka ‘Soda’ aka natural ferment health tonics.  Our first clients described it as ‘*bleep*ing Legit’, ‘Pure Minted’ & ‘That's Banging, by the way’; & with those kinds of street level accolades- I resolved to embed it as part of our cultural mentoring framework here so everyone is empowered to pass on the Good Message.

Charge the Cup of Friendship…

One of the first barriers to relationship with our guests, my colleagues informed me; is the question of diet.  Apparently it’s shocking for all concerned.  Sometimes, they said, it’s ‘THEM’ & ‘US’ kind of stuff… rucksacks full of Irn-Bru flagons, hunners of sweeties & pot noodles and... three days in when this runs dry; they begrudgingly start joining in with the ‘food’ aka ‘that organic rubbish’.

Not that I can talk mind, I’ve got so much metal in my mouth from my school days- lunch consisted a can of pepsi, half a quarter of rainbow crystals and a ham roll.  My breath stank so bad, my first kiss with a beautiful girl called Suzanne O Leary was met with disgust.  You start to wise up after that sort of event.

30 odd years on, I’m bringing something to the table, not as a lesson; more as a cultural offering to get involved with on an evening.  It doesn’t taste of seaweed; no… we’re brewing the most fantastic fermented fizzy soft drinks, which raises the barr and blows Red Bull clean outta the gate.

Why Bother? Well,  I feel that if your going to build a genuine relationship and lead guests toward a curriculum designed to go beyond their own perceptual edges and back again in a short space of time; then the least you can do as a host is meet them half way.  Find a common bond, give a taste of something we can all relate too.  That’s how respect and trust is built.  It’s a welcome gesture…

Plus I do love a good glass of Pop.

This Common Life.

The commitment to a subsistence lifestyle is one of the handshakes of the regenerative design movement.  It’s part of a responsible Pushback against the mainstream; meeting our needs creatively in right relationship with our non human neighbours.

Within this arena the two commitments of tending our deep nature connection journeys and a commitment to mentoring becomes contextualized in a tangible relation to landscape- It’s as real as real can be.  

Our food, our shelter, our heat, our energy use, our waste and all our crafts of the rural household. This is it.

These commitments dovetail neatly into the context of living communally here, known as the ‘common life’ at Camas Tuath. Shared tasks are, for the large part- rhythmical, cyclical and seasonal:  Bread is baked, food is harvested or foraged from garden and shore, eggs are fresh from the coop not the co-op; kelp & human waste becomes friable humus for our fruit crops to complete the circle.  All items we can’t provide for under our own steam is linear-to be specific: wheel-barrowed from the tarmac down the track.
The epic gaelic landscape of Ardfenaig district which we wheelbarrow resources through on the handbuilt track.

Participating in the daily chores known as ‘Get-Stuff-Done’, young people happen upon much of the hidden curriculum; fired by their innate curiosity of ‘what-things-are-for’.

4 and 3 and 2 and 1... part of the hidden curriculum known as Get Stuff Done.

For the curious then, Making the Juice once a week is yet another thing to get involved with and learn informally before the ‘activities’ start. A window into the world of human nutrition, ferment, budgeting, foraging,tending the wild, ultra heat treatment, jam making, sterilization; is it? No?  Go give a hand with the washing up then would ya?  If one in a hundred youth who touch the brewing bucket go on to produce their own for their community; I’ll be a happy bunny.

By the way, if your interested in ferment, you'd do well to get this book in your library.

A good looking sourdough loaf; don't you think?

Making Peace with Pop

Where the Pop really comes into it’s own though is in the realm of Peacemaking.  That inevitable opportunity that presents itself after strangers have endured some significant experiences and stretched their edges a little bit.  It is here, celebrating Gifts & Gift Moments- around the feasting table, or the Fire; that the transformative power of the bubbles really work their magic.
Eye contact
a sudden recognition of being
being here
in the same boat
our similarities
& our differences
I  like being here
Good Cheer
This is it 

It’d be Pap with Pepsi.

In good faith.  I have to mention the competition.  The tide we are pushing back against.  Have a look on the supermarket shelf  next time your in there…there’s NO ferment.  It’s ALL carbonated water, saccharine and glucose-fructose corn-syrup; no wonder the UK government decided not to tax ‘sugary drinks’ and took a recent U-Turn; there’s hardly any sugar in it!

 I'm not able to change mainstream culture, but we're committed to peacemaking within our sphere of influence; and certainly if my first observations are correct- the dependency on lots of sugary sweets and drinks- and the resultant physiological 'spiking' creates an obvious barrier for the capacity to reflect or engage in any meaningful forms of critical thinking.  It's THE gateway drug; par excellence.

Temperance for our times.

Despite the attempt to eradicate the native tradition of herbcraft and lore on these Isles by the early church; it is in the direction of modern Christianity we can direct our thanksgivings for preserving some heritage herb-craft recipes.  The experience of an explosive non-alcoholic banging ‘Pop!’ & the resultant cheers of the frothy drink from regional hedgerow ferment recipes; has been handed down through the Temperance bars  that once graced our high streets.

The Temperance Movement, despite pressures from the monopolies buying and burying family recipes; preserved recipes of blood tonics, burdocks and a host of other foragable life-giving tonics.  Back in the day. even a cola was good for you; before Coca-Cola got their hands on the competition.  Nowadays, the cultural fabric hangs by a few threads….

It is to my ancestor Mam-Mam, my great grandmother, aka ‘Mam Temps’ aka Ethel Jones that I direct my thanks.  The Temperance Bar of Bridge Street, Mynydd Cynffig aka ‘The old carpet shop’ aka ‘the new flats’.  It is she who past on the secret of this revolutionary yeast to me, by secretly skipping two generations and inoculating my feet with it at an early age.  Imagine my surprise when I recalled the memory, put 2 & 2 together and took a foot bath in a bowl of water/sugar before feeding the bees with it to extract the culture!  Who knew I was carrying an ancient Brythonic panacea on my feet, whilst simultaneously walking in the footsteps of the Temperance movement all this time?  What are the chances?

Unless your suffering from addiction, it’s not alcohol per se we need ‘abstinance’ from these days.  In the realm of voluntary simplicity; it’s the unscrupulous industries that sell us food and drink that dumb us down & kills our kids that we need to resist. This is the edge to temper, the rest is just symptomatic of a root cause.

At Camas Tuath we don’t buy it and we don’t serve it to anyone that sits at our table.

Here’s to Life! To Peace!  Pob Hwyl! Slanijvar! Nice One!

Monday, 9 May 2016

A look back on volunteer training, in pictures

After two intense weeks of staff training, we are ready to welcome our first group for garden week!
Here is a look back at all we did:

The resident staff put together this training plan based on a natural learning and living cycle. Perfect for the way Camas integrates both on a daily basis.

One of our first morning reflections was kicked off by an epic dance party to energise us for the day.

Our technical advisor, Kenny Lacey, showed us the ropes in preparation for our abseiling and climbing tutorials. 

A stunning view of Camas, complete with our abseiling/climbing assistants at the top of the crag overlooking the bay.

A few of our group looking on and cheering one of our volunteers, Aaron, as he nearly climbs all the way to the top!
Mairaed coaches Janet through her first ever abseiling adventure.

Kenny coaches us through a couple of canoe rescues. 
And the emptying of kayaks while in the water, too!

What looks like another dance party is really us warming up for a coasteering adventure.
The tidal island in the middle of Camas bay couldn't be a more perfect setting for coasteering.

The waves were exciting, the tide was just right.
The depth of the water was perfect for jumping off the rocks into the sea.
No shortage of smiles after this adventurous afternoon! Thanks Kenny!

We practiced our fire building skills with various found materials. 

And learned how to use a fire bow to try and start a fire without matches! (Not for the faint of heart, it takes a long time and a lot of patience) 

The fire was eventually started and we sat around making a map of Camas, complete with all the magical nooks and crannies that were found during the weeks' adventures. 

For all the fun displayed in these photos, we were still learning a lot! George Fell came to teach us about first aid and emergency procedures for all of the what-ifs and just in case scenarios. Thanks George!

The very last day of our training, we got snow!! We delayed our morning chores for a bit of play; it was so beautiful and we were happy to enjoy it when we didn't have an adventure session planned. 

I might be a bit biased, but I think this is the greatest group photo of Camas staff to date!

We packed for an overnight on Iona and headed up the track, enjoying the snowy landscape. 

Still enjoying the sights and novelty of snow at the end of April as we crossed the Sound of Iona on the ferry. 

And true to Scottish weather, we had a beautiful sunny day after the snow day, perfect for relaxing by the beach hut while we finished up the weekly meeting.

It was a full and rewarding couple of weeks, we are all feeling trained up and ready for a fantastic season! Can't wait to welcome you this season!