Sunday, 1 July 2012

A walk in the country

Earlier today, with some family and friends, we took a walk from Bourton on the Hill to Longborough and back again, a round trip of just under 5 miles in the English Cotswolds.

The walk was mainly through the Sezincote House Estate. Sezincote House was built in 1810 in an Indian style and was apparently the inspiration for the Brighton Pavillion. It did look pretty, and the whole estate was well cared for with some stunning mature trees, although I still have some reservations about these large country houses and the origins of the money that built them. There are connections with the East India company and I can imagine the exploitation of people and so on that helped amass the money that built the house. Anyway, I digress!

The route we took is a small part of the 'Heart of England Way' which is approximately 100 miles and links Cannock Chase in Staffordshire to Bourton on the Water in Gloucestershire.

One of the largest fields that we walked along had what I imagine was a biodiversity wild-flower/meadow border planted. It did look stunning with Ox Eye Daisies forming the main part, but in amongst them were Yarrow, Poppies, Vetch and much more. The only surprise was the complete lack of bees or butterflies - I would have expected to see loads.

Passing through a coppice, there was an old gate with a particularly interesting handle - clearly someone liked ducks or swans!

The half-way point was the very picturesque cotswold village of Longborough. We had a drink at the pub and admired another pub regular - eagerly awaiting his human partner to return with some food!

And it didn't rain!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Our daily bread

This is brilliant!

Tom is an artisan baker (surname also Baker) and uses a wood fired 'Earth Oven' to bake bread. He runs his business 'Loaf', a bakery and cookery school, from his home in Stirchley, Birmingham, UK,
For more information visit

All Music obtained from the, with the exception of 'World of Fox' ( tracks avaiable for preview and download at

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness"

Henry David Thoreau

More on Thoreau and his ideas etc:

Friday, 27 April 2012

Natural building using Cob

One of my loves is 'natural building', and of the techniques/methods around, the 2 key ones are Strawbale and Cob. Cob is literally clay (from the ground), sand and chopped straw.

Millions of houses around the world are actually made from earth in one form or another, but the technique of cob building is vernacular to many parts of the UK. In Devon, even today, you can still find many buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years, made from local cob.

The advantages of cob is that it is usually local (often dug up from a few feet away), simple to make, highly sculptural and provides a lot of thermal mass. The downside is that construction can be slow (unless there's a large group of helpers!), and cob itself does not provide much in the way of insulation.

Anyway, pros and cons aside, cob buildings can be some of the most beautiful structures around. Hat-tip to Steven Golemboski-Byrne who had a link to this building in Somerset on his blog.

For more information and photos on this building, please visit:

Monday, 23 April 2012

On Earth Day…Commandments for the Earth.

Over on the various blogs that I follow, there has been a lot of wonderful writing about 'Earth Day'. I also have a friend who is very cynical about 'Earth Day' and 'Earth Hour' type events as the feelings, thoughts and actions people feel compelled to take, should take place every day. Indeed, many 'Earth Hour' events were sponsored by large corporations - can't quite see the logic in that, unless the said corporation wants to be seen as more 'green' by sponsoring this type of thing.

Anyway, must be more upbeat as depression is heading my way unless I can stave it off!

Over on Arignagardener's blog, they've listed '10 Commandments for the Earth' first written by Ernest Callenbach in 1990. I hope Arignagardener doesn't mind me stealing them and listing them here:

  1. Thou shalt love and honour the Earth for it blesses thy life and governs thy survival.
  2. Thou shalt keep each day sacred to the Earth and celebrate the turning of the seasons.
  3. Thou shalt not hold thyself above other living things nor drive them to extinction.
  4. Thou shalt give thanks for thy food, to the creatures and plants that nourish thee.
  5. Thou shalt limit thy offspring for multitudes of people are a burden onto the Earth.
  6. Thou shalt not kill, nor waste Earth’s riches upon weapons of war.
  7. Thou shalt not pursue profit at the Earth’s expense but strive to restore it’s damaged majesty.
  8. Thou shalt not hide from thyself or others the consequences of thy actions upon the Earth.
  9. Thou shalt not steal from future generations by impoverishing or poisoning the Earth.
  10. Thou shalt consume material goods in moderation so all may share the Earth’s bounty.

What a great set of commandments - be interesting to judge your day and actions against those to see how you fair!

See Arignagardeners site:

Friday, 23 March 2012


This morning, I had one of my regular reflexology sessions with Rob Buckle (by the way, if you live in or near the South Birmingham area of the UK, I can highly recommend him for Reflexology or Reiki!).

At the end of the session, Rob left the room to fetch a glass of water and as I gazed out of the conservatory into his garden, I spotted a Woodpecker. I've never seen a Woodpecker in real life, but the distinctive bright red patch at the bottom of the body, near the tail is a giveaway.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Image from RSPB

It's a distinctive and impressive bird. My eye was first caught with the colour - that patch of red is almost luminous, but then the way it moved up the tree, keeping the stance like the image above, was pure Woodpecker (from memories of seeing them on TV).

It brought a smile at time when I need a few smiles!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Life, the universe...

All around me, the signs of spring abound. One of my friends, Sarah, has just blogged about her first nettle and root soup of the season - I want to be 'out there' doing stuff, yet I am caged, kept within myself by events beyond my control.

In life, as in nature (because life is nature, is life), there are cycles. Some cycles are perpetual in the sense that summer will follow spring, which follows winter, which follows autumn, which follows summer and so on. Other cycles have a start and an end, and are complete within one cycle, although they are part of bigger cycles that all link up. I am referring to the cycle of life and in particular, to our wonderful canine companion, Albert, who it seems, is approaching the end of his physical days on the earth.

A few days ago, he was diagnosed with degenerative liver disease. He's been put on medication to support his liver, which we are supplementing with some herbal tablets, but the vet's anxiety is that he does not have much good liver left to work with. The vet is understanding, in fact very understanding, and is not recommending further invasive tests on the basis that we would learn little that could benefit Albert.

He might respond the treatment and rally round, or he may not. We'll know in the next 10 days or so where this is heading. I've really been very upset at the prospect of loosing him - he's been woven into the fabric of our lives for the past 7 and half years. He's slept with us on our bed every night, he comes on holiday with us, everything we do, or everywhere we go is centred around Albert not being left alone!

I'm not afraid of death - I understand that it is a part of life, and Albert being 14 or 15 years old has lived the expected life of a dog. But I am afraid of the void, of the loss of company, of the loss of familiarity, the loss of routine that he has brought us. Perhaps these are selfish concerns, but they are the ones I have.

I wish I could explain to him that the tablets he so dislikes taking are for his benefit and will help him. I wish he could tell me how he feels, where his pain is, and perhaps, when he's had enough and wishes to slip away.

Yet, as I focus myself on Albert, the other cycles of life continue, unaffected by my personal crisis. In the grand scheme of what's going on in the world, how small are these events, but depending on where you stand, they can be the biggest thing in the world.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Living without money

Mark Boyle started an experiment a few years ago - he decided to live without money.

Now there are many people who would wish to find fault with what Mark is doing. They will say that he's not really living without money because he uses things that others have given him, and that they used money to buy them in the first place. They might say that working in a pub and being 'paid' in food means that people have to earn money to buy drinks and meals in order for the pub landlord to 'give' Mark the food. Fair enough, but if you think Mark and his book is just about money, then you've missed the point. Mark studied marketing and in reality, he now admits, that he uses the moneyless tag to get people's attention - what he is really talking about is respect for the earth - a new way of living.

I read Mark's book at the end of 2010 and it's a really good read. I don't pretend for one minute that I would want to live the life that Mark does, but there are many lessons to be taken from it.

Here's an interesting little tale, featured on Mark's 'Freeconomy' website:

The Businessman and the Forest Gardener.

One day a man, let's call him Martin, was pottering around in a beautiful forest garden in the middle of the English countryside, harvesting some autumn olives, medlars, James Grieve apples, walnuts and a whole range of unusual leafs. Martin loved forest gardening - not only was he working in complete harmony with Nature, it required only a fraction of the labour that conventional agriculture took, whilst still producing more than enough food for his family of four. But, truth be known, all he was really doing was enjoying some afternoon sunshine and eating fruits picked straight from the tree!

A businessman just happened to walk past this bountiful garden. He noticed the forest gardener was sitting in a little clearing under a plum tree, and decided to find out why this gardener was lazing around in his one acre forest garden instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family.

"You aren't going to grow much food that way," said the businessman to the forest gardener, "you should be working hard rather than lying under the tree!" The forest gardener looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, "And what will my reward be?"

"Well, you can buy more land so that you can grow more vegetables and fruit!" was the businessman's answer.

"And then what will my reward be?" asked the forest gardener, still smiling. The businessman replied, "You will make money and you'll be able to buy a tractor and other labour saving machines, which will then result in larger harvests of fruit and veg!"

"And then what will my reward be?" asked the forest gardener again.

The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the forest gardener's questions. "You can buy better machinery, and hire some people to work for you!" he said. "And then what will my reward be?" repeated the forest gardener.

The businessman was getting angry. "Don't you understand? You can build up a fleet of tractors and combine harvesters, buy more land, convert it all to intensive agriculture and let all your employees grow your fruit, nuts and veg for you!" Once again the forest gardener asked, "And then what will my reward be?"

The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the forest gardener, "Don't you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting in this garden, looking at the sunset. You won't have a care in the world!"

The forest gardener, still smiling, looked up and said, "And what do you think I'm doing right now?"

First Guardian article:

Response Guardian article:

The Simple Life

Growth by ~SaturnonaStick on deviantART

Here's a little collection of phrases advocating simplicity that I found on the internet (can't actually remember where I copied these from - oops!). Through simplicity, we can grow within ourselves, without being weighed down by the chattels of our lives.

Simplicity is something we should strive for, but also recognise that a) it's not for everyone, all of the time, and b) it's not necessarily easy! Like Einstein says, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler".

Charles Mingus -Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.

Hans Hofmann - The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

E. F. Schumacker - Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.

Albert Einstein - Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Laura Ingalls Wilder - It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.

Eleanor Roosevelt - A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think.

Henry David Thoreau - Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!… We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Star Child

We had a short stay in Glastonbury last October. For a variety of reasons, we weren't able to walk the Tor or Chalice Well Gardens, so that'll be for the next time!

We did manage a trip round Glastonbury Abbey, which was actually more interesting than I thought!

However, one of my favourite shops has got to be Star Child - there is an amazing feeling in the shop, and just look at all the herbs behind the counter...

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Home: the most incredible film I've ever seen

A couple of years ago, I watched a film on YouTube called 'Home'. It was made by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and features stunning photography and views of the earth that most people have never seen.

Aside from the sheer beauty of much of the filming, there are other, less pleasing moments as Yann's photography puts the scale of humanities impact on the earth into perspective. Whether it's the scale of the Alberta Oil Sands and it's pollution or the plastic polytunnels and greenhouses in Spain that supply much of Europe's vegetables, you cannot fail to be moved in some way.

Here's a trailer to the film.

Yann wants as many people as possible to see the film, and as such, has made it publicly available for you to watch, download, share and so on. You can find it on YouTube here:

Standard definition:
High definition (recommended):

Yann also appeared on a TED talk - there are many 'deep' moments within the talk, but above all are his words "We don't want to believe what we know". A stirring call to action.

The Children's Fire

Not sure how I found this, but I was given a link to a web page on 'Way of the Human' which contained a video by Tim Macartney. He delivers an incredibly powerful speech at a conference about a new way of making business decisions, based on nature and the impact of decisions on children.

No law, no action, shall be allowed that will harm the children.

No law, no action, no entity, no organisation, no power of any kind, we will permit to emerge that will harm the children.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Rise and Root

Rima Staines is a wonderful British artist who keeps an incredibly interesting blog about her life, her paintings and her thoughts. Whilst she is not a prolific blogger, with Rima, it's all about quality and not quantity. My only criticism is that the comments left on her blog are incredibly 'gushing', but maybe that's a reflection of the love people have for her and her work?

In her latest post, she talks about a dream and how she saw a symbol which she interpreted as an Ogham symbol. This led her onto creating the above image 'Rise & Root'. Both the images and the words are incredibly powerful for me:
Rise: against blandness, shopping, concrete, conformity, the pricetag on your days.
Root: in beauty, wild imagination, black earth, stories, otherness, your old heart.
I've blogged briefly about Ogham symbols here:

Rima wants the 'Rise & Root' image to be shared far and wide, so please copy it and post it around. Get it printed on t-shirts or whatever - it'd probably make a great tattoo as well!


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