Sprinkling of magic in the thunder rains

To provide a blend of heightened inspiration and lower concentrated delivery, sedentary patience and outward engagement, the West of England has a wealth of alluring, seductive projects and people to visit. Yesterday, as the forecast was hotter than Bangkok, a day on farms seemed suitable. 

The drive to my first stop was part of the exercise too. Chepstow, well North of, towards Coleford along the winding route through the ancient Puzzlewood forest, is where there is potential to develop the project with a business who has land, buildings and needs curation. They grasp the vision and purpose too. Along the journey, I felt the softening of the transition into far, to further and still, I was but 40 mins from Bristol. Through a village I caught the end of the school run, joggers along the road-side, a bustle. And the land would just be beyond that, looking out over to the Severn. And if we are talking about ecosystem boundaries in our study here, and the productive margins, the energy and friction of that, then what is more apt than that of England and Wales. 

Continuing on, I headed to The Fold and what an optimistic, fruitful (pardon the pun) welcome it is on a busy road opposite a recent drab housing development. On the way I had passed many rural trading estates one with a pertinent sign "PLACE YOUR BUSINESS NAME HERE" with seven empty boxes below, I gulped at the sobriety of attracting businesses to our site, and mustered on. 


Meeting Lucy, Head Grower who I'd previously met a couple of years ago at a do at Patrick Holden's (Sustainable Food Trust / Soil Association / Farmer)  house in Bristol. The trees were heavy with quinces and pears, the car park brimming on a Tuesday morning, and a sense of use, relevance and vibrancy. The old grain store has been transformed to a warm cafe serving their produce and ethical dishes. I was more interested in the outdoors, however as we finished our coffee and headed out in a dress and Birkenstocks... the rumbles began. The sky turned that ominous grey that illuminates green leaves to a lime colour. Covering up in waterproofs as the clouds let rip, Lucy kindly showed me still the farmhouse where twelve workers and the couple who own it live. The extensive polytunnels where she grows the vegetables, the nursery of thirty (!) polytunnels further down the site towards the bottom of the hill. We walked past their biomass producer that with 15 acres of willow and a harvest of 5 acres a year powers the whole site including nursery (PIC) along the Nature Trail to the Care Farm, where Lucy conducts her family gardening days and other assisted therapeutic programmes for vulnerable people. There she grows on 1.5 acres, and with four polytunnels produces enough for five outlets including the farm, and is seeking another market. 

We talked shop in between the downpours, and I noted the scale they operate and how they have resourced it- the main enquiry in my research. It was also enriched by a successful business from the Nursery that oiled the cogs. 

Squeezing out the rain from the dress, I popped on over to Stockwood Rush Farm, a business park that supports the operations of the farm. Rush Farm is headed up by Seb Parsons, who also runs The Biodynamic Land Trust and previously Dr Haushka cosmetics UK arm (we noted the correlation between the connection with cosmetic companies (me The Body Shop) and rural projects). Half way in our conversation on excel spreadsheets, implementers v ideas people, the politics of land ownership, we hopped and jumped into a Land Rover to help with a bull in a field. There I am in a soggy dress, in a soggy field with a bull, a vet, a farmer, Seb, his son Brendan and other helpers to hold the bull for the vet.

Walking back, I asked Seb about the Biodynamic element of his vision and how that informs the practice on the farm. It started with the consciousness of the farm, how it all integrates and is an ecosystem made up of living organisms, whom have their own boundaries and catchments to respect and be aware of, and then how those boundaries interrelate. I learnt about the preparations for the compost: seven blends of yarrow, valerian, chamomile, oak bark, dandelion, stinging nettles..  the water supply, the fields. I learnt about the four lunar influences on the plants: roots, leaves, flowers / fruits and seeds. To respect the type of crop you are planting or harvesting according to these types, e.g. if it is a 'root' day in the lunar cycle, then you plant the potatoes on those days, you harvest them on those days and they are flavoursome. Similarly with vineyards, Sainsbury's has reported a 20% rise in sales from wine that is picked on the fruit days as the grape is bursting. Sounds fun. He showed me the water sculpture where the cells of water are broken and repaired, broken and repaired in a figure of eight as it falls down the pools in the sculpture. The water preparations are added to this water, which is then sprayed on the land. 

We discussed Steiner and the balance of power: politics, economy and personal development (health, education, culture) and the I (free), you (service) and us (the agreed). The higher self, the higher I in the ego, responding to the lower i, Waldorf and the development and refinement of feelings in our human development (in 0-7, 7-14, 14-21 cycles, that by the time we are 21 we have grasped our feelings so we are able not to get in the way of ourselves - a topic that is pertinent for me at the moment).  It was a journey and a dialogue that enthrals me, to bear witness to how rearing cattle relates to this. To the propagation of land, to our ownership models, to how we want the world to be and work within, to wisdom and bravery of a few to draw it all in, to the ground. That is where I wish to stand too. 

EVENT: Urban installation of the Rural Project

With a business that has been driven from the bottom up to serve a variety of wants, desires from a range of users over the years, we are hosting a number of events in the planning stages to welcome input to attract a following and showcase the diversity of services we will offer.. all in conjunction with our purpose, to reconnect people with the land and welcome conversations that matter in a space for wellbeing.

This weekend was held in good company at the Open Studios event at Hamilton House on Sunday. We occupied the outdoor terrace and filled it with wild ferns and plants, drew all over the glass, laid out reams of paper to draw rural dreams on, wrote love letters on tags and tied them to the apple and pear trees, hung maps of the land, and its water system in the Bristol, South West area, 'like the veins of the Earth" Daithi quoted. As the 'Banksy' tour snapped the work above us, we hung our hashtag sign to get the word out. (Banksy, if you read this, hi - it was only a few hours and thought you might appreciate the amusing contrast of the grit of your piece on the Stokes Croft riots and the harmony we aim for in our next project)

Questionnaires were completed, conversations were shared about the benefits of working in green space, how the project could make parents happy, visions of your ideal view from the office window, picking your working lunch... 

We heard from storyteller and cartographer Daithi O'Suilleabhain on 'Indigenous Bristol' transferring his learning from aboriginal, indigenous traditions to the place here, and how that approach to connecting to the land through story, has strengthened local fracking campaigns and watershed management in the Bristol region. Drawing from this, Steph Wetherell from Locavore, The Real EconomyBeacon Farms and Bristol Food Producers, shared how our connection with nature and protecting the quality of the water supply also benefits the care and attention we pay to our local food supply. In Bristol we have many artisan producers and farmers, which our project will be supporting too, to ensure Bristol has a scaleable reliable local fresh food supply.

Pitch in!

This project is looking for a co-founder to shoulder the escapades, ride the rolling hills of a start-up ambitious enterprise. 

To complement an imperfect all-rounder (!), we would really like: 

  • someone who has an eye for financial detail and business planning; likes it and is happy to be sensible
  • someone who has good social skills; there is lots of meeting, greeting and relationship forming
  • someone who is familiar with the landscape of land ownership / agents / funding 

If what has been written on this site resonates with you (YAY), we would love to hear from you and start a conversation. Please do get in touch with Petronella: thefield@ruralproject.org 

The push and the pull

The journal is heavy with a struggle that faces me daily, to where my energy is, where it should be and where I choose to go, to focus or not to focus. This quote I found on my desktop has the lively erratic spirit of this conflict and regrettably I didn't include the source. It reminds me too of a wish I often declare as to why there are no songs about project planning, anxiety of a start-up, the roller coaster of management.. 


oh expectation~! you daring devil! My sweet primate brain thinks: Great things need planning! Great things need no plan: they just are!

The paradox!

It seems to be that I can see the ancient olive tree growing in my minds eye... I ask, how can I live each day to help the seed live and thrive? I guess two things: I plant the seed for the future *&* and care for it every day.

Though we may never eat its fruits. It is the labour and the dream that sustains.
Like some divine union between feminine and masculine, flow and structure, do and don’t, heart and head, past and future, earth and sky: the great seed of NOW.

“suffering digs the well, love fills it. what good is a shallow well?” - cling on, lovers! fall on, lovers! Love on, lovers

Definition of 'field'

Word origin: Old English feld; related to Old Saxon, Old High German feld, Old English fold earth, Greek platus broad

  1. an open tract of uncultivated grassland; meadow; Related adjective: campestral
  2. a piece of land cleared of trees and undergrowth, usually enclosed with a fence or hedge and used forpasture or growing crops  a field of barley
  3. a limited or marked off area, usually of mown grass, on which any of various sports, athletic competitions, etc, are held  a soccer field
  4. an area that is rich in minerals or other natural resources  a coalfield
  5. short for battlefield, airfield
  6.  the mounted followers that hunt with a pack of hounds
  7. all the runners in a particular race or competitors in a competition
    1.  the runners in a race or competitors in a competition excluding the favourite
  8. cricket the fielders collectively, esp with regard to their positions
  9. a wide or open expanse  a field of snow
  10. an area of human activity  the field of human knowledge
    1. a sphere or division of knowledge, interest, etc  his field is physics
  11. a place away from the laboratory, office, library, etc, usually out of doors, where practical work is done or original material or data collected
    1. (as modifier)  a field course
  12. the surface or background, as of a flag, coin, or heraldic shield, on which a design is displayed
    1. Also called: field of view the area within which an object may be observed with a telescope,microscope, etc
  13. physics See field of force
    1.  region of space that is a vector field
    2. a region of space under the influence of some scalar quantity, such as temperature
  14. mathematics a set of entities subject to two binary operations, addition and multiplication, such that the set is a commutative group under addition and the set, minus the zero, is a commutative group under multiplication and multiplication is distributive over addition
    1. the set of elements that are either arguments or values of a function; the union of its domain and range
  15. computing a set of one or more characters comprising a unit of information
    1. a predetermined section of a record
  16. television one of two or more sets of scanning lines which when interlaced form the complete picture
  17. obsolete the open country  beasts of the field
  18. phrases 
    1. hold the field
    2. in the field
    3. lead the field
    4. leave the field
    5. take the field
    6. play the field
  19. (modifier) military of or relating to equipment, personnel, etc, specifically designed or trained for operations in the field  a field gun,  a field army
  20. verb (transitive) sport to stop, catch, or return (the ball) as a fielder
    1. (transitive) sport to send (a player or team) onto the field to play
    2. (intransitive) sport (of a player or team) to act or take turn as a fielder or fielders
    3. (transitive) military to put (an army, a unit, etc) in the field
    4. (transitive) to enter (a person) in a competition  each party fielded a candidate
    5. (transitive) informal to deal with or handle, esp adequately and by making a reciprocal gesture  to field a question

(extract from the Oxford Dictionary 2015) 

Church Farm, Naseby

The anchor for our zeitgeist

The most successful businesses will also be grounded in community and relationship development. In the same way that we’ve seen a rise in longform content and storytelling, we’re craving deeper relationships, in a society where it feels like we have more breadth than ever before. The winners will blend both innovative spaces and places with powerful communities. We’ll see businesses emerge from people meeting at these spaces and events, subsequently collaborating and innovating.
— Erica Berger

Since I gave oxygen to this idea back in January 2015 (and only a minimal stream mind you), every conversation I have, every chance meeting in the street, every step I make enters another fruitful generous imagining of this project and food for thought to the recipient. I am no fool. This is based on conscious observation over the past few years and here it finally blooms. 

Working in collaboration is a refined skill and is often taken lightly. It requires us to go against our default behaviours. I thought I was a natural sharer, hell - the eldest from a large family, living in community and working in coops should have eeked out any sense of self orientation. And yet, I fin myself holding on quite tight to this, fearful of imperfection, fearful of intervention, fearful of losing it before I've really made it. An example recently where I was offered what a couple of years ago would have been a 'dream' position, it sent me into a flurry. Helpful in hindsight, it reminded me I was in charge of me. There was a choice, I didn't just need to follow the opportunity, the fixable, the complement. When one's faults, gaps and unknowns are exposed quite publicly as a sole start-up, my shoulders felt a softer at the thought of doing what I know, what is familiar, what assures me and gives me faith. 

This does, and it will continue to give me and others faith. It's just a little untrodden, a little unworn. It will be smoother, it will become occupied soon. 

The Rural Apprentice

To qualify heading up a rural business, and one that embarks learning from and providence 'of the countryside to give ruralis it's full meaning, new skills, new networks and new approaches have been sought to form this project. Starting out with the resolution for truth, imparting on a way of living and working (they are in fact no longer dualisms), and the curious reach for connectivity of fields and meaning that some may not gather, pick up on or wish for, but that are there, speaking the same language, calling upon the same vision, sharing the same bread. Progressive enterprises, and the same for progressive people are rarely dispirited by the challenges we face. Indeed, they are in a position to be on the celebratory side, for they see and live by a way out, or up and out. That is living with trust, with gratitude, with perseverance and a good sense of humour.

Creativity, ingenuity and cheek to dare try is at the heart of this enterprise. On paper, the qualifications are in politics, Spanish, leadership, climate science, operational management, facilitation, conflict mediation, essentially interpersonal skills and academia, removed from the dirt and seasons of land work. That is in the experience and application. This work is far from romantic, far from lifestyle magazines of shabby-chic and foraged alcoholic spirits. But that is not to say that gloss does not have its part. The desire for a more honest way of living, no matter how it may be decorated in sepia Instagram posts, is something to seize. There are different motivations for simplicity, some may merely be aesthetic, some to limit our consumption, some because they cannot afford to consume, and some because there is a knowledge that the complexity of our lives, that is a marvel itself, is not helped by our arithmetic at over complicating and adding to the sums (ha, you could say the same for my jumpy metaphors).

This apprenticeship has included how to demolish a building (golf clubhouse) safely (ish) to reuse timber, has learnt to lamb sheep, has learnt to cook for masses last minute, has learnt timber framing and sexy joint work, is prolific in trail running, planted a thousand trees, can build an outdoor staircase with rocks, scrap wood and tyres, can build a rocket stove, clay pizza oven and build an off-grid kitchen from scratch, can cycle 1083 miles with twenty loonies staying with off grid communities.

As a result, friendships are with Impact Drivers, mallets, chisels, chalk lines, fence bashers and spirit levels, Landrovers and tractors, sewing needles and head torches. There is an acute anxiety with keeping tools dry and upright, I can infuse you a tea from your garden that would help your skin, improve your focus, massage your weary limbs after all this exertion and soon support you in childbirth. The qualities and properties of softwood, hardwood, postcrete, hardcore and lime, cob, hempcrete and Grade I and II soil, fermented rice, jojoba oil and mogworts.

And then there is the female phenomenon. Alongside this rugged counterpart, strengthening my core and arms, has also been an education in the female form, where our energy is stored and how to produce that power. From women's circles and Red Tents, to healing medicine songs and orgasmic yoga to political advocacy around menstrual rights and wellbeing, this part of the journey has formed the anchor to follow my intuition, the core and tune-in to those reserves. Learning to tune in to the body and tune out of the mind is the work in progress, silence and daily practice support this knowing.

Teachers and gurus have been appreciated and acknowledged in my scrapbook. Building Man, Tangentfield, Brake the CycleStreet Goat, Oak Farm, Bronhaul, EcoDharma, Boodaville, Fordhall Organics, Embercombe, Waldegrave Farm, Dorje Denma Ling, Windhorse Farm, Mundekulla, Aspire FoundationBurgs, Quadrangle Trust... it could go on listing the wealth and privilege I have been exposed to. Noticing now that these places have given the gift of pleasure, an unshackled being.

Standing on top of an old Land Rover in a no-longer-waterproof waterproof, racheting poles from a yurt to the roof, whilst Pyreneen mountain rain pelts as I try to protect the wood from the rain using a black tarp. It is chaos, risky and gives me utter happiness. My body, my laugh is alive. This is where I am at my best, or one of the places I am, so I gotta make that part of the next few years.

Source: http://petronellatyson.blogspot.co.uk/