Existential Epiphany…

Two weeks away from the organisation I work for has given me the opportunity for some serious contemplation time. Clearly I’ve always known that their bottom line is to make as much money as possible and provide its shareholders with the highest dividend-related pay-outs in accordance to the current market conditions. As time goes on however, its raison d’etre is becoming a bitter taste in the mouth, cleansed only by a glass of sulphate-free natural wine.

Maybe it’s because I am moving quite swiftly towards a new and more ecological path nowadays, that as each day passes, my attachment to the organisation becomes more meaningless, more pointless.

And as each day passes, more and more synchronicities are occurring giving me hints that I need to move on, almost like an esoteric and invisible elbow is nudging me in the ribs and towards the door. An unusual cloud formation, a lyric in a rock song, a conversation with a stranger are all pointing my compass needle away from its current direction.

Founding Fathers (and Mother) of Neo-Liberalism…

During the last few months, days and weeks, I have also come to the realisation that democracy is truly dead, globally, not just in the UK. I’m not well-read on the matter, but my current understanding is that the catalyst for our current state is the advent of neo-liberalism, defined by Wiki as the following:

“Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with economic liberalism and free-market capitalism. It is generally associated with policies of economic liberalization, including privatization, deregulation, globalization, free trade, austerity and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society”.

Naturally, perhaps, this led me to the door of Noam Chomsky, a name I had heard from in the past but hadn’t really had the opportunity to dive deeper.

Noam knows the score…

From what I have read and watched thus far, the neo-liberalist slippery slope began in the US in the 80’s, which moved society away from democratically elected constructs and nationalised industries and towards unelected big business calling the shots, all of which was introduced by Ronald Regan and Milton Friedman, with Margaret Thatcher (my anathema) as their evil and twisted counterpart on the other side of the pond.

It all starts to make sense to me now. The power that the current elite billionaires yield is so much more than that of governments, and just a quick glance at the pitiful corporation taxes companies like Amazon and Facebook pay globally effectively means it is they, the unelected upper echelons of society that are controlling the system, not elected officials who allegedly represent the greater good of the people.

Then we have the current batch of Tories, who have abused their elected powers for total cronyism, handing out billion pound contracts to their party funders, no doubt increasing their own personal wealth in the process.

So here we have a situation where the world is effectively run by big business, underpinned by corrupt governments, neither of which have the health and wealth of the people at heart, only personal wealth and power over others.

So knowing that no one has our back and there are no real alternatives out there at present, what real choices do we have. It is difficult, but we do have choices, and I have started to make those choices.

Humans only need five basic things to survive, clean air, clean water, food, shelter and sleep. The air where I live is free (at the moment!) and clean, the water I have to pay for (which I can’t really avoid just now) and includes various chemicals all of which I filter out before consumption, most of the food is sourced from local farms, butchers and dairies, my house is well-kept (although I am still mortgaged to big business which I hope to pay off as soon as I can) and I sleep well (all things considered).

Anything beyond the basics falls under comfortable living, but non-essential to sustain life. We have clearly evolved over the last few thousand years to do more than just exist, to have fun and enjoy the time we have here, advancing the species in the process. Sadly, not many of us have enjoyed the last eighteen months for the obvious reason, but for me and some of my new friends, we have come to the realisation that we can make a break for it, and leave the chaotic world behind.

That all starts with a reversion back to tribes. Our new cooperative is starting small, but is already bringing together strangers as friends, all with a common middle digit erected to the UK government and big business. Not only will our collective produce organic food for group consumption, it will act as an experiment to counter neo-liberalism. Clearly our collective aims are the same, but I guess we are all at various stages of enlightenment (socio-economic enlightenment as opposed to spiritual enlightenment), but I think as one “micro-movement”, we can look to the implementation of a different lifestyle, one not beholden to power-wielding constructs.

Naturally, this existential epiphany is leading me to conclude that an exit from my current organisation will happen sooner rather than later, I don’t think I can wait until my retirement in five years, my tenure is really is starting to grate on me too much.

Wish me and the wider cooperative luck…

Seedling Sanctuary…

Alas, the “Cabin in the Yard” project was cancelled before the virtual ink was dry on the graph paper (excel). The Dragons Den pitch to the wife was a solid one I thought, but the to-be space and light constraints were all too much for her and our rather tiny patio garden.

The decision was made after I had already ordered and paid for some new power tools that very morning, much to my disappointment, frustration and decreased account balance.

I guess on reflection it was the right decision, so the eco-lodge prototype for the eco-retreat will have to be built elsewhere, most likely the new allotment (so not the worst result).

So with a day off yesterday and unboxed tools screaming from their cupboard under the stairs to be used, I took it upon myself to test them out by building a seedling sanctuary / mini greenhouse, which will also get me some Brownie points with the “er indoors” as our internal living space will free from propagation units which will now be housed outdoors.

I have a new best friend, let me introduce you to the Dewalt Cordless Circular Saw (this is neither product placement nor marketing campaign – just an honest critique of an excellent tool). Why has my life been without one of these beauties for so long!

Dewalt 18v Cordless Circular Saw

I had already alerted my neighbour to a “period of intense swearing / cursing” as is customary when I do DIY. But after a full day of working, not a single expletive was uttered, except those targeted at B&Q for only providing lengths of 2.39m 2×2 and not the regulation 2.4m, which threw my measurements off (only realising this after I had cut a lot of the wood already).

The circular saw was so fast, easy and accurate, and very quickly the frame was up, with the other bits soon to follow:

Ready, set, go…
Frame up in record time…
Slats in…
Doors on, poly carbonate on…
Voila!

As I’ve stated, my joy comes from different things these days. The sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle has been replaced with calmer and more sedate activities of late, yet I get the same dopamine highs from gardening and building things as I would have thrashing out to death metal, drinking myself stupid and getting laid (with the added bonus of not having a hangover, tinnitus spikes, black outs and possibly / probably upsetting people).

“The times they are a changing”…

The Plot Thickens…

Our communal and agricultural experiment has got off to a good start. When a collective forms of six individuals (and of course family members and to-be active players), it brings together people from all walks of life, each with their own backstory and points of view.

I can honestly say that it’s been a joy to converse with people on the exact same frequency as I am, all of us thus far intent on finding out successful methods of growing ones own healthy and organic food, keeping those pesky processed sugars at bay.

The 2D Plot…

One of our group had already sketched a plan for our plot before I jumped on board, so with my new found love of Minecraft (hey it’s not just a kids game right?), I took it upon myself to “3D-ise” the blueprints he had put down on graph paper so that we could all visualise what the plot could look like and where each component would be best placed for optimal use of the land.

I was very happy with the final output, which I’ve uploaded below.

The Plot Thickens…

We will meet up at the weekend to agree the final plan and start to order the poly tunnels and greenhouse, now that all of the compost has now landed and the temporary raised beds are under construction.

Looking forward to the next steps…

Spring Equinox…

If I’m not mistaken (we can’t Google everything can we), today marks the astrological start of Spring, and as such I was up early to get a few hours in at the allotment as the sun rose boldly in the West.

Before the hard graft of relocating a couple of tonnes of compost to our “landing strip”, I took it upon myself to have a wander through the two main plots on the site, each thirty foot wide and two hundred and forty foot long, with various sized sub-plots in each.

I recorded a video walkthrough of both plots (including our “landing strip”) to see so what our green-fingered comrades have added to their sites, and what seems to work well for them so that we could take some good ideas to use for our own.

Plot A – Our Neighbours…
Plot B – Our “Landing Strip”

I also took some overhead drone footage of our plot, sadly I’m still a novice and didn’t calibrate the settings properly so it’s a bit grainy and the colour transitions aren’t great, but at least it gives us a good idea of what it looks like from above, and the Herculean task we have over the next few weeks to get the land primed quickly and ready for planting our seedlings.

Drone footage of our “Landing Strip”

I was the sole human on site for a good two hours on this new Spring morning, and I found myself transported into a different world, one devoid of stress, commitment and consumerism, just me and my thoughts as I shovelled my way to happiness. It gave me the first real glimpse of what retirement will be in five or so years, that day can’t come soon enough.

Until then, I will learn new skills, experiment with nature and bond with more people in tune with my own frequencies.

Those frequencies and conversations are already paying off, and I’m paying it forward in the shape of positive planting, the smart garden has worked wonders on the broad beans I planted just one week ago.

With a two day break from work this week, I’ll be spending both days at the allotment to give us a real kick-start, hopefully more mindfulness and ideas will flow, I’m certain it will.

The Barrow Boys…

When I first saw the fifteen tonnes of compost, the first thing that sprang to mind was the Jeff Goldblum line in Jurassic Park “That’s one big pile of shit”…

That’s one big pile of shit…

Never a truer word spoken…

We, sow the seed…

As soon as the affirmation was received that I had acquired my “in” for the communal allotment last week, my initial thoughts amusingly turned to the 1980’s sit-com, The Young Ones.

Vegetable rights and peace!

There is an episode called Sick, and part way through the anarchistic character Ryk (played by the wonderful and gone-too-soon Rik Mayall) kills Neil the Hippy (Nigel Planer) because Neil keeps repeating the phrase “We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and then we eat the seed”, and after several minutes Ryk whacks him with the spade. He then buries the body under a load of horse manure which had been recently dumped in their back garden, only to find that ironically he has cultivated three Neils, who return in the middle of the night to taunt and haunt him. Classic.

My sister is also keen to get involved in the venture and armed with gloves, hat and wellingtons, she joined me and my wife to visit the plot today. The weather this week had been been awful, and the rain and howling winds have wrecked a lot of the hard work in laying down the cardboard “runway” prior to the dumping of the compost next week to get our no-dig operation off the ground.

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, and we agreed that the cardboard matting and composting needs to go hand-in-hand and not in isolation.

We started work on collecting “free timber” in the form of disused pallets and will, over the course of the next few weeks, create borders and raised beds, recycled and upcycled, costing us just a few pence in nails.

After we had stockpiled around twenty pallets, the weather turned gnarly so we headed to the garden centre next door to buy some multi-purpose compost, small seeding trays and pots (the latter which we got for free).

So today I started off with broad beans, sowing eighteen pots, and under the advice of the nice lady at the garden centre, wrapped them in a plastic bag and put them by the window to germinate.

We, sow the seed…
Nature grows the seed…
Pre-fill…
Post-fill…
Multi-sowing in action, double the fun…
All potted and watered…
It’s in the bag…

Tomorrow I’ll experiment with peas in my smart garden, no idea if it will work but it will be fun finding out.

The days of stage diving and crowd surfing at Obituary/ Napalm Death gigs seems like a lifetime ago, but in the immortal words of both John Tardy and James Hetfield (of Metallica), “the memory remains”.

On reflection, I think that is life is like a car ride, get in, learn how to drive, start slow, speed up, go fast, slow down, reach your destination and eventually stop. Looking back at my life to date, I’ve certainly done that, and even though I’m starting the slow down phase which will inevitably lead to the stop phase, I’m still far away from my final destination and I’m enjoying the ride…

Allotment: Meant a lot…

The age-old adage of it’s not what you know it’s who you know never rang so true this week.

As I’m rotating around different circles of friends these days, opportunity seems to knock more frequently now. I had put myself on the local authority register for allotments to grow my own produce a few months back, but the waiting lists post-COVID are now ridiculously long, with the average wait a staggering ten years, now that a great many people are now wanting to do the same.

One of my new eco-retreat comrades alerted me to an opening in his new venture, which is a strip of land behind one of the market gardens close by to where we live, thus expediting my off-grid journey towards the Good Life by a mere decade.

Much to do…

Excited to see the land, it took a quick “recky” to assess the current status and envisioned future state at the weekend, meeting some of my would-be farmers friends at the same time. The land is approximately eight metres by eighty metres and is totally barren.

Some work has already been done, the visqueen weed-blocking layer has been stripped from the land and the goodly folks of the cooperative (nine others in total) have just completed the laying of flattened cardboard boxes, making it look like an alien landing strip from above, welcomed too by a fire pit already installed at the foot of the land, to warm their cockles after their sub-zero temperature interstellar space travel (should they have cockles to warm of course).

The Landing Strip…

The plan for the site will be to follow the no-dig methods of Charles Dowding, laying down strips of cardboard to block out the weeds, on top of which sits several tonnes of compost, creating narrow lanes of cultivatable land with minimal back-breaking work. The plans are to grow pretty much everything one can grow, with the additions of a poly tunnel and green house making this all possible.

The Communal Shack…

The inclusion of a communal shack will be a place of solace in the summer once built, allowing us all to click back and whittle some, after a hard days graft,

Needless to say, me and the extended family (sister) are super excited to get started, and the to-be seedlings will be seated in their respective pots and growing cells over the coming days, prior to the virgin planting once the compost has been successfully splayed across the allotment.

I’ll also experiment with my smart garden to cultivate the seedlings, nine at any one time all year round, a constant conveyor belt of cultivation…